Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remember When Social Media Was About Connections?

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across the Tweet above from Anne McColl (@anncmccoll). Although I had no context for the quote by Jay Baer and how it was used, it made me stop and think about how quickly social media marketing is transforming. Remember when it was important to monitor social media to participate in conversations about your brand? Remember when it was fun and exciting to build relationships and engagement with your fans and customers? I look at that quote and “commerce” means two things to me. First is our own ROI of our social media marketing. Second is the evolution in Facebook (primarily) and the decreasing reach of our fans. Now we have to look at how much we need to spend in ads to keep our reach where it was a few months ago. 

Initially, we saw a nice comment or a question and it was an invitation to start a conversation. We saw a complaint and appreciate the feedback. It was fun to have a viewpoint of all these conversations that we could never see before and be able to participate. Next, the fun was in posting our own messages and watching the replies, shares and likes. Engagement was what we were seeking. 

Then the questions came from executive teams about what we were getting from all of the social media activity...what’s the ROI? We revisited our strategy to (hopefully) align it with the overall goals of the company. Just engaging with our customers is no longer enough. It has to be the right engagement that drives purchases or recommendations or whatever we deem the proper end result. We shifted from participating to driving our customers towards a certain behavior. 

Just as we were getting our heads wrapped around building our strategy, being useful and creating truly great content, Facebook has changed the game on us. Very quickly, our organic reach is decreasing. Our posts are being seen less and less in our audience’s news feeds...the audience we developed. To maintain how many eyeballs see our posts, now we have to pay for the exposure. The amount of content out there continues to increase while the number of customers that see it continues to decrease. Our jobs are getting harder. 

So what can we do? The obvious choice is to pay for ads to keep your reach consistent. Another option is to take advantage of the advocates in your company. Use this internal resource and educate them on how to tell or share your stories. The more people that are sharing your content, the more customers will see it. Obviously, while still producing epic content that your customers engage in regularly.

It’s scary to think that we’re already referring to “Remember when...” when talking about the work we were doing only months earlier. Social media marketing is evolving fast. It’s more important than ever to track industry trends and make some educational guesses as to where it will go next. 

What's your take on this ever-changing landscape? How often do you have to adjust your plans? Or, do you not plan out too far ahead?  Thanks for reading and, if you like this post, please share it with your friends. Also, sign up to have my blog posts emailed to you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

That's Not AT&T U-Verse's Policy

How many times have you heard this: That’s not our policy? How many times has a solution to your problem been an easy fix that someone could have made, but they don’t because it would go against their policy?

A week ago, I ran into this with AT&T U-Verse. It was a similar issue that I ran into two years ago. I blogged about that experience here. This time, again, my DVR box went out. After the Tech Support rep walked me through a few attempts to save the box (except the one thing that would have fixed it in about five minutes, I figured out after it was too late), she told me I’d have to get a new box. I’d also lose all of my recordings...again.

She told me the box would arrive in two days. I didn’t want to wait that long (I know...first world problems) so I asked if she could find a tech in the area that could drop a box off. She then said they could do it for $150. So I asked what I’m paying $200 a month for! No answer. I spoke to a supervisor who gave me the same offer. She wouldn’t waive the fee because that would go against their policy. I asked what policy they’d be violating...again, no answer. Basically, the solution was available, they just chose not to do it...at least without the $150 fee. After threatening to cancel my service, she did cave on offering me a credit. I accepted...only to find out the next day when I went to pay my bill that she never actually gave it to me.
Photo from: http://bydianedaniel.wordpress.com/tag/customer-service/
Quick ending to the story, I got the box two days later and the credit after arguing with yet another manager for two more days. They did the bare minimum of what I asked...the original credit I was told I would get, but didn’t. Nothing additional for the extra time I had to spend on the phone, troubleshooting the hook up of the box when it didn’t work, or the lying to me about getting a phone call from a manager and the credit.

An additional note, once again, their Twitter reps were much more helpful and responsive than their phone reps. You would think they’d have the same training, but probably not...silos.

So, who are their policies designed to help or protect? The customer? Hardly. How many times have you heard that they can’t to the simple, common sense thing to correct a problem because it’s not their policy?

To be fair, I’m biased. Most of the companies I’ve worked for in my career (Heinen’s, Cox Communications (at least up to a few years ago), COSI Toledo) have been known for their outstanding customer service and experiences. We make decisions and policies by doing what’s right for the customers. Unfortunately, most companies don’t follow the same practices...despite what they may say.

What experiences have you had with a company’s policies? How about the company you work for? Tell me both your good and bad experiences below.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

I admit it. I was wrong. Let me explain. Somehow, I’ve missed out on Gary Vaynerchuk until a few months ago when I heard his newest book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” was coming out. I’d heard his name before, probably even followed him on Twitter, but wasn’t very familiar with his work. His book was starting to create quite a buzz. I saw he was the featured speaker on a webinar, so I registered to learn more about him and his book.

As usually happens when I tune in to webinars at work, I was multi-tasking, so wasn’t giving it my full attention. I was working, listening and also trying to Tweet along with the webinar. Not knowing Gary Vee’s style, I was a bit turned off by it. He was loud, obnoxious, but everyone else loved it. I didn’t get it. On this webinar, I was hearing more loudness than substance. He then said something that capped it for me...he said “Email is dying”. That just made me think, “OK, loud guy not saying much, but looking for the outrageous headline to make people talk.”

I lost a little interest in his book after that. However, I kept hearing really good things from some people I have a lot of respect for in content marketing...people like Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley. I was started to get interested again to see why I was missing the buzz. I decided to ask for the book for Christmas, and I got it. I just finished reading it. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” knocked me out (pun intended). Not having read Gary Vee’s first two books, it was helpful that he put a quick summary of what they covered. This is a continuation of what he’s already covered with adding the “Right Hook” portion. The simple idea is that brands need to be using their content to give little snippets of helpful information and entertaining blurbs (jabs). These jabs allow you to develop your audience to see what they respond to...in effect softening them up. That way, when you do throw your right hook (strong sales pitch or call to action), they’re more receptive to what you’re asking them to do.

What I love about this book is that he’s able to relay the concept in a very easy to understand way that’s motivating. He explores all of the big social media platforms with tips of how to build your messaging and posts. He gives real examples of posts from brands, both good and bad, and explains what they did right or wrong...or both. I read the posts first and made my opinion and compared to what Vaynerchuk analyzed.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone that’s looking for help with telling their story and toning down the hard sell. I’m glad I looked past my first impression and am fully on board with Gary Vee! I just hope he forgives me for a rash judgment! Oh, also, he also softened his approach on the email is dying comment...this time offering research that shows open rates are declining.

Have you read the book or heard Gary speak? What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading and please share with your friends. If you like my blog, please sign up for the email notifications.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This is Cleveland! We Do It Our Way!

On March 19, Positively Cleveland rolled out their new travel and tourism campaign. They had caused a bit of controversy by announcing weeks before that they would be phasing out “Cleveland Rocks” (more on that later) and many keyed in on the fact they were using a Kansas City agency (not local) to develop the campaign, so many of us were a bit more primed to see what would be replacing it. Here are my takes on some of the key elements from the event and campaign. 

Launch Event
Positively Cleveland did an incredible job of building up the new campaign, the thought process behind it, the research they conducted and the excitement for what’s to come. The event was capped off by the video below. I like the rebellious tone that talks to how Cleveland is what we are...not what people want or think we should be. No apologies. We made our own way. Proudly. 

This Is Cleveland Video

Keep in mind, this isn’t meant to be the actual ad they’ll use, but it will build off of it. I came away from the event feeling a lot of pride for the city of Cleveland and I’m excited to see the actual ads they’re going to use. Their use of images from all aspects of the city was shown over music from a local band, Welshly Arms, with a narrative explaining who we are.

I purposely waited a week or so to go back and watch the video again. I wanted to watch it without the buildup and after the initial excitement wore off to see if it still resonated as strongly. Honestly, some parts do and some don’t. The song sets the right mood with a touch of attitude. The words telling our story get a little distracting and take away from some of the images, but the actual ads will be shorter and more concise.

There are some great images of just about everything you can think of to do in Cleveland...although the Casinos (both Horseshoe and Rocksino) were conspicuously absent, as well as Superman and there was very little Cleveland Browns. They plastered images of the Rock Hall and music throughout, so the rock theme is still strong (as they said it would be). However, no Hard Rock CafĂ© or House of Blues. I get those are in many cities, but you’d think you tie it into some of the music scenes to give reinforce the music scene.

They show a lot of food, museums, scenery...most of which you can find in any city. We recognize what they are and why they stand out to us, but I’m not sure someone outside of Cleveland will understand why they’re special. I’m curious to hear more of what their focus groups thought of the video. But it still instilled a sense of Cleveland pride that I hope translates to potential visitors.

This Is Cleveland Tag line
This to me is the biggest miss. It’s way too generic for what they built up. It doesn’t fit with the “we do things our way” theme. Any city anywhere can use “This is _____”. It doesn’t feel special or unique. I understand that its simple, adaptable and easily spread, but it can also be easy fodder for the comedians and those already mocking Cleveland. Much has been said about Positively Cleveland not using a local ad agency to develop the concept (Ad Com will be executing much of the campaign), and this tag line does nothing to temper those feelings. At the very least, they could have personalized it more by having it be “We are Cleveland”...but even that would fall a bit flat.

Cleveland Rocks

I can’t not at least mention my thoughts on moving away from “Cleveland Rocks”. I’ve always really liked the slogan because it can be adapted to any of our great features. It doesn’t just have to be about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The biggest reason I like it is because (like it or not) the Rock Hall is our biggest differentiator and the most unique part of our city. Every city can claim great food, museums, nightlife, etc. But, there are few great music destinations and there’s only ONE Rock Hall.

Their research found that it doesn’t resonate with the Millennial group they are targeting which I can understand. They still capture the strong rock vibe of Cleveland, so I can live with moving on to something new. But, to the person that said, “if you have to say you rock, you probably don’t”, we didn’t say it. Ian Hunter did. We adopted it, and rightfully so. And besides, he’s probably the same guy that yells at you to sit down at a concert or football game...

Overall, even with the nitpicking above, I do like the direction and thought process. I’m hoping they’re paying attention to the feedback and suggestions to be able to work some of them into the actual ad campaign to make it even better. It has the right attitude for Cleveland and truly gives tourists a sense of who we are. It makes me proud to be from Cleveland and excited to welcome all who want to visit our great city!

I’m curious of your thoughts. Do you like it? Love it? Hate it? What would you do differently? Comment below and share this blog with your friends! As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What You Can Learn About Content Marketing from Adam Carolla

Adam Carolla recently spoke at SXSW. You can hear the full presentation here: http://adamcarolla.com/adam-carolla-live-from-sxsw/. He talks a lot about the content that he creates for his fans. One of the main parts of the discussion is his use of Fundanything.com. He first used the site for crowdfunding for his upcoming movie Road Hard. He’s now using it to help fund his fight against patent trolls. These patent trolls are suing him for one of the technologies that distributes his podcast. He said he plans to continue using crowdfunding for future projects...books, movies, etc. By contributing at different price levels, his fans can get things like t-shirts, hats, tickets to shows, etc. He’s using his content to entice his fans to donate.

Speaking of content, Carolla has no shortage of it. A quick look at Adam Carolla’s career begins with radio before making it big with Love Line with Dr. Drew and The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel. Since, he’s had reality shows, car shows, been a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” and “Celebrity Apprentice”, returned to radio (taking over Howard Stern’s timeslot when he left for satellite), wrote books, did standup, made a movie, developed his own signature cocktail Mangria, started his own podcast and I'm sure countless other projects I'm missing.

If you don’t know, The Adam Carolla Show is the most downloaded podcast holding the Guinness World Record. He started it after being fired from his radio gig as a way to keep his audience that he had built and developed. He didn’t want them to go away and lose his connection with them. He records it daily and has never missed a show in over five years.

Carolla tirelessly continues to roll out new content. Along with his podcast, he now has his third book coming out in May, a new TV show Catch a Contractor that just premiered on Spike TV, he’s working on a documentary about Paul Newman, he’s starting to film his next movie Road Hard, continues to make appearances and perform stand up and is now taking a legal fight against patent trolls that are suing him for one of the technologies of distributing his podcast. All of these projects are promoted through his podcast. Rather than having to buy advertising, he’s able to tell stories about different aspects of his projects that feeds the content of podcast (among other topics).

One quote from the presentation shows his philosophy. “The more content you give them, the more they’ll consume and the happier they’ll be.” He’s also said many times that there are no reasons anyone can’t do the things they set out to do as he came from a very poor background and worked to create his own success. If you haven’t listened to his podcast, you can check it out (and his other projects) at www.adamcarolla.com.

Thanks for reading! I’m curious on your thoughts. If you like my blog, please share it with your friends.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Marketing Fails: What Were They Thinking?

In the last two days, I saw two brands with two different marketing fails. First is Barbasol Shaving Cream. They launched their largest ad push in their history. It’s based around “Shave Like a Man”. Their goal is to reach a younger audience without alienating their existing customers. The campaign, as explained in this article by Columbus Business First (http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/print-edition/2013/02/01/barbasol-launches-biggest-ad.html) uses humor to chastise today’s youth and to get them to do manly things. The commercial below shows a World War II soldier talking to his great grandson. He criticizes his use of Twitter and hashtags and tells him to at least “Shave Like a Man”.

I do find the ad funny and it’s memorable. I give them credit for that. However, criticizing your target audience probably isn't the most effective way to promote your product...especially when it’s for social media, which their target has now grown up with and is ingrained in their daily lives. It makes Barbasol sound more like grumpy old men screaming for the kids to get off of their lawn. There’s a strong risk they could turn off the younger target who don’t like being told what to do. I’m a long way from that age, but I remember being a little rebellious to authority figures (who me?)

The second issue is that they completely miss out on an opportunity to build on the campaign by using social media. Even though the commercial makes fun of using Twitter and hashtags, “Shave Like a Man” sounds like a perfect hashtag to me. They could have spun the spot to say something like, “If you’re going to use a hashtag, at least use #Shavelikeaman”. If you’re going to put together your biggest campaign in your history, wouldn’t you want to get the most out of it? Maybe it’s just me...

The other fail was an email I received from Showtime. They used a subject line that indirectly promotes one of the more talked about cable shows. That makes sense, right? Well, it would be except that the show is from their biggest competitor. The subject line is "Who Runs the World?...Girls!" The email itself is promoting their Women’s “Her-Story” Month Collection. So, the subject fits...except that “Girls” is a hit show for HBO. I just don’t know what they were thinking and how no one caught that. As an aside, I found out through a friend that the subject line is actually from a Beyonce song. However, Beyonce isn’t referenced at all in the email, so they missed out on that tie-in (although that might just be missed by me...lol).

What do you think? Am I being too critical with these or do you agree they’re misses for these brands? What other brands have you seen lately that have missed the mark? Thanks for reading, as always! If you like my blog, please share it with a friend.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cable in Cleveland Takes Another Step Back - Cox to Close Call Center

Cable in Cleveland took a step backward last week as Cox Communications announced it is closing its Cleveland call center...what remained of it. A company that once prided itself for its customer service and the fact that it was local continues to move itself to a strictly bottom line philosophy. 

Overall, the company is closing 12 call centers around the country to go from 19 to 7 (more details at http://www.cedmagazine.com/news/2014/02/cox-culls-some-call-centers). The remaining 7 are being called “centers of excellence”...sorry, but that’s a joke. They say this is a move to “best meet customers' needs in an increasingly competitive marketplace.” You can read that as they need to cut costs wherever they can, even at the expense of local service, and they’ll do the best they can with what they have.

Now, understand that I’m biased when it comes to Cox making cuts. They’ve been making cuts, merging, “centralizing” and laying off employees for years....pretty much since Pat Esser took over as president. I saw many friends laid off before the Cleveland system was merged with the New England system. That’s when over a quarter of our positions, including mine, were eliminated. Since then, they’ve continued to merge systems across the country and eliminate jobs up until this latest announcement.

Unfortunately, this is the trend for the whole industry. The Comcast/Time Warner deal makes sure that will continue...and get worse. Unfortunately, Cleveland is affected greatly by both situations. I’ll continue to bring you information as it happens.

Thanks for reading as always and please share with your friends.