You’ve built it, but why should we come?

Ok, here are a few questions I’ve been dying to ask my friends:

  1. Of all the brands you follow on Twitter, how many have you recommended to family or friends?
  2. When was the last time you entered to win something on Facebook AND shared it with friends?
  3. Do you use a “junk mail” email address to sign up for news/offers/etc.?
  4. Think of your top 3 favorite YouTube videos. Were they product pitches? If so, did you buy?

Nowadays, every brand wants us to “like” it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, watch it on YouTube, subscribe to its stuff, download its app, and join its “community,” and blah blah blah. It’s enough to make Susan Powter scream. Seriously, how many different ways do YOU want or need to hear from a company?

Here’s the thing, dear brands: When the voice in the corn field whispered “if you build it, he (they) will come,” it definitely wasn’t talking about all your social presence on multiple networks. We only “like,” follow, subscribe or download when there’s something in it for us. Your customers, not the C-suite, are the most demanding people when it comes to ROI: is your company and its wares worth our time and/or money? If your company doesn’t offer anything unique and compelling, isn’t helpful, or doesn’t provide easy access to whatever we want, we either won’t come or won’t stay. It’s that simple.

What if, instead of chasing after the next shiny social media object, you spent that time approaching us at our favorite hangout, both online and offline, and talked with us? What if, instead of trying to create the next “viral” thing (eww), you asked what we want or need, and actually made it happen?

True, I work in the social media field, and I’m familiar with many tactics brands employ to spread its messages online. But more importantly, I’m a wife, a mom, a woman with disposable income, make household purchasing decisions, tech gadget friendly, and active on social networks. I get pitched and marketed to all day long, too. I see and understand both sides, and not surprisingly, the side of real life wins every time. I’m thankful because the combination of my two points of view helps me make better recommendations and decisions for my clients. So, dear brands, whatever you choose to do with this social media thing, if it’s not relevant to your customers’ lives, it won’t last, and certainly won’t help your bottom line.

P.S. Have you read Brains on Fire (the book)? I’m a fan, and would recommend it to you. And no, this is not an affiliate link.

Posted in Work | Tagged , , , , | 9 Responses

In which I question my own blog

One of my favorite bloggers and friend, Brett Nordquist, met with me over lunch a few weeks ago. His first question to me was: “Why don’t you write more?” Gotta admit, I knew that was coming, and I’m glad he asked.

So here I am, logged into my WordPress blog again. And again, I’m greeted with so many updates. Honestly, every time I log in, by the time I fix all the issues and run all the updates, I’m spent. My desire to write has long vanished. So I log back out, feeling like I just wasted a lot of time. Maybe WordPress was the wrong choice for me?

I suspect the bigger issue is I haven’t found my blogging voice. I thought I had a good idea of what I wanted this blog to be when it first began. Over the past couple of years, instead of nurturing the kind of writing I grew up doing, I tried to change directions. Instead of talking about what I’m actually thinking, doing and feeling, I tried to be all “high level” and business like. I thought I was being “grown up” about blogging. Turns out it’s probably a lot of bullshit.

So I spent some time reviewing my RSS feed yesterday. Got rid of several blogs that I thought I needed to read but rarely find inspiring. I realized my favorite bloggers are the ones that speak their minds and tell good stories. Brett’s very personable and often touching blog definitely falls into that category. Jen Zug‘s posts usually make me think about my own choices in everyday life. Alison Byrne Fields doesn’t blog much but I always devour her posts when they show up in my feed. I also enjoy Penelope Trunk‘s snarky and brutally honest writing. I’m starting to see a pattern…

So, the mechanics of WordPress aside (which I may just pay someone to do), I need to get back to blogging for myself. I’m a writer’s daughter. Approaching writing in any way other than honest just won’t get me anywhere. So, that’s settled.

Dad 白惟良 at Mt. Rainier

Posted in Life | Tagged , | 12 Responses

Social Media: Set It and Forget It?

Social media is hard work when done right, and the upkeep can be taxing especially when faced with tools and platforms that are constantly evolving. I’m knee-deep in all the to-dos of social media for my wonderful clients on a daily basis, so believe me when I say I understand it is very tempting to set some tasks on auto pilot.

Whether you’re using social media for business or personal branding, there are a lot of tools out there that promise to help you manage your online presence with much less time and effort. Efficiency = good, right? Many of these nifty add-on tools offer to deliver Twitter messages for you automatically. All you have to do is “set it and forget it.” At the very beginning, there were auto-follow and auto-DM (direct message). Lately, I’m seeing more and more ListNotify and paper.li tweets that are auto-generated. That’s what prompted this blog post.

paper.li is similar to The Tweeted Times. Their original intent is to simplify content aggregation and sharing. Sounds harmless enough, right? I will say upfront that when used smartly, the auto tweets generated by these tools could be of interest to your Twitter followers. The key is to provide context in the auto tweets, whether it’s industry specific, event focused or topical. (Hat tip to my friend Dan Gordon for his response below.) Unfortunately, most of the the paper.li tweets I’m seeing simply say: “@MyName’s paper.li is out! <link> Top stories today by @SMGuru @TechBigshot @FacebookNinja.“* To me, it feels like someone dropped a pile of day-old newspapers on my desk and expects me to read them. Consider the fact that most of us have enough trouble keeping up with our various inboxes, RSS feeds and research related reading, what do you think the chances are that we’d be interested in reading someone else’s pile of papers?

@DanGordon's tweet re: paper.li

@DanGordon's tweet re: paper.li

ListNotify is a cute little tool created by Iron Monkey Ventures. The name started showing up in my tweet stream a few days ago. This afternoon, I decided to ask people about it, in case there’s something good about it I’m missing. Thanks to my friend Kristy Bolsinger for the passionate response below. :) I’m sure its creator, Larry Mai, is a very smart and nice guy, although I did get a good chuckle from his personal Twitter bio: “Making a mess.” Yes, ListNotify is making a bit of a mess in my tweet stream. Every time a ListNotify user gets added to someone else’s Twitter list, it generates a tweet that states that fact. If you’re using ListNotify, I just hope your tweets aren’t being cross-posted to Facebook and LinkedIn, too. Yikes.

@Kristy Bolsinger's tweet re: ListNotify

@Kristy Bolsinger's tweet re: ListNotify

It’s true. Your Twitter account is your own space, and you’re free to say whatever you like. However, if your goal is to grow your Twitter audience and influence, please be considerate of your followers’ time and interests. I cannot stress enough the importance of context, and doing it consistently well in under 140 characters definitely takes thoughtful planning. “Set it and forget it” just won’t do.

That said, there are many good Twitter add-on tools available, too. What are some of your favorite ones? Please share with me in a comment below so I can try them, too. Thanks!

*These Twitter names are fictional. Any resemblance to real people and accounts are purely coincidental.

Posted in Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses

A New Professional and Personal Adventure

I’ve been quieter than usual lately because I’ve been busy wrapping up 13 years of my life at Ben Bridge Jeweler. On Monday, November 1, I will be joining Banyan Branch, a Seattle-based social media agency, as an Engagement Manager, and I couldn’t be more excited.

In 1997, I started my career at Ben Bridge Jeweler at the height of the holiday season, during which I learned to quickly catch the ball and get in the game. Over the past 13 years, Ben Bridge has seen solid and steady growth, and so have I. The last 2 years were especially thrilling, as I chose to color outside the corporate lines with great results, while learning from so many brilliant minds in the jewelry industry and beyond. So why am I leaving an organization as stable and well respected as Ben Bridge? Simply put, I’ve been given the chance to evolve and grow with Banyan Branch, and it’s the kind of opportunity that I just can’t turn down. More importantly, this would not have happened without your support. Yes, you. I’ve made numerous wonderful friends during my involvement with Social Media Club Seattle, Social Media Breakfast Seattle, Gnomedex, plus many more camps and events. All of you have challenged me to push my own limits, and for that I’m grateful.

Seattle is one of the most active social media hubs. I’m very fortunate to be part of this fantastic community. Thanks to Kevin Urie for starting SMC Seattle and being such an inspirational leader, and my fellow board members at both SMC Seattle and SMB Seattle for setting such admirable examples in community building, mentoring and thought leadership. I must also thank Ed Bridge, Jon Bridge and my team at Ben Bridge Jeweler, who have helped me grow for over a decade, and trusted me to take the Ben Bridge brand into the social space. I won’t lie though; it’s hard to say goodbye to @BenBridgeGirl. She’s been such a lovely constant companion. :)

I’m really looking forward to new adventures at Banyan Branch, where I’ll have the chance to assist some incredible brands with engagement and movement. I hope you’ll continue to ask me the hard questions and give me straightforward feedback. As always, I’m wide open on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and I’m sure we’ll see more of each other, both on and offline!

Posted in Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Responses

OMG, We Don’t Have a Social Media Command Center!

Just as I’m in the middle of assembling resources for a branded tweetup, Mashable drops a “Social Media Command Center” and all of Twitter erupts with excitement.

The all-American sports drink, Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo) indeed has built a “social media command center” that includes multiple large monitors and custom software in a designated room with comfy seats. I’m not gonna lie. Those photos of data visualizations displayed on big screens made me a bit weak in the knees, but my projects quickly snap me back to reality.

Mashable has done a terrific job of sprinkling glitter all over the term “social media.” Many large brands can afford to take that leap early and often, and getting featured on Mashable is like a shot of instant MiracleGro for their shiny new campaigns. But chances are, you’re in a position similar to mine. Your brand isn’t that huge, your product isn’t meant for everyone, and you don’t have celebrity athletes dripping sweat on your customers. All the talk and spotlight on whatever new awesome social thing the big brands are doing may not be helpful for what you’re trying to do for your company or client. In fact, it could be a turnoff to the more traditional executives, or it could make your smaller clients panic. What am I trying to say? If you’re trying to sell “social media” to your company internally or to prospective consulting clients, perhaps the latest darling on Mashable isn’t the best example to use. If you’re crafting a plan for your brand, perhaps it would be better to pass on Mashable’s cheer section and search for solid case studies instead.

My suggestions? Seek out people who are doing the work, hands on, everyday. Learn from them. Read their blogs, dig through their Slideshare accounts, stalk them on Google Reader to see what they’re sharing and commenting. A few of my favorites are: Kristy Bolsinger, Sean Moffitt, Tac Anderson, Eric Weaver, and Shannon Paul.

Looking around here, I’ve got an L shaped desk, a Dell PC, two 17″ monitors, a multi-line phone, and a big green coffee mug. What does your “social media command center” look like? :)

Posted in Work | Tagged , , , , | 14 Responses

The Oreo TV ad lies.

It’s been over 3 months since my previous blog entry, and I had every intention of coming back on a positive note: ROAR!

But today, it’s going to be more of a meow.

Funny how grief actually helps me focus on things. Whenever a stressful situation strikes, my first reaction is to step up and get things done. Life still has to go on, right? The to-do list doesn’t just magically disappear. In fact, I’m crossing things off like crazy today.

I also like to make sure people around me are taken care of when they’re sad. I would normally be the one who makes sure everyone eats and rests, and the little kids are entertained so the grownups can do what they have to do. Unfortunately, they’re all many many miles away from me.

TV ads like this one wants you to believe technology makes physical distance disappear, but you know what? Distance is still distance.

[youtube tkNRSNB9gE4 480 385]

RIP, uncle Tom. I’m sorry I haven’t been there.

Posted in Life | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Are You Using The Original Location Based Service?

There’s no question that location based service (LBS) is a hot topic right now, both for individuals and businesses. I know a lot of people who are regularly “checking in” on more than one location based social networks, and many are comparing notes for either fun or work.

4sq_tweetsOne big point of debate among LBS users (and haters) seems to be the practice of cross-posting. When LBS users check in, post notes or a photo, or earn achievements, they have the option of sharing the action across other social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter, and it’s an option that many users happily exercise.

I’ve been wondering: what do these location announcements mean to the LBS users and their audience? As I was driving past Boeing Field and observing some interesting cloud formations the other day, it dawned on me: these LBS users are sending up virtual smoke signals.

Smoke signals have been used for centuries, and it is, in my opinion, the original location based service. It reveals the location of the signal sender to everyone, for a purpose. Smoke signals are meant to communicate very specific, and often urgent, messages to a wide audience. It’s supposed to trigger certain actions from the viewers/audience based on a pre-arranged or generally understood system.

So, when you cross-post your location check-ins and announce it to the world (especially if your Twitter profile is public), are you effectively sending up smoke signals? What do those signals mean to the recipients? Are they to act on the message? If you constantly cross-post your locations, does that become a bit of “crying wolf” and lose its impact after a while?

Which LBS do you use? Do you cross-post to other social networks? Why or why not?

Posted in Life, Work | Tagged , , | 10 Responses

Skipping Valentine’s Day on Purpose

kiss at reception

My husband and I never celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not because it’s a so-called “Hallmark holiday.” We’re definitely not jaded about showing affection with flowers, chocolates, gifts, and cards, either. It’s just that we were too afraid to call each other on Valentine’s Day…

TJ and I bumped into each other in a Seattle chat room many years ago. I was taking a break from doing my school work online one afternoon. Remember when chat rooms were full PM windows asking your a/s/l? He never asked that. For about an hour, we chatted about school (he was also taking classes at the time), work, music, and books. Email addresses were exchanged before we signed off. Over the next several months, we occasionally emailed each other, talked about movies, food, family, and life experiences. It was a very nice and relaxed e-friendship. We did trade phone number but never called for one reason or another.

That changed one afternoon. I think it was about 4:30 p.m. I decided to call and ask if he wanted to meet for a drink after work, and he agreed. (Did he happen to be free, or did he skip class that night? I’m not sure.) The conversation went so well that we continued on to dinner. It was so easy to talk and laugh with him. Even though we only had one conversation online, everything we discussed over emails simply flowed right into our in-person interactions. A few hours later, before parting ways outside the restaurant, he asked me to wait while he retrieved something from his car. He had brought a card for me but kept it in the car, just in case things didn’t go so well. I must admit, that was pretty smart on his part. It was a very cute card and he got a hug in return.

On the way home, I saw that he was following me and started getting scared. About 3 blocks before my condo, he turned, but I was still paranoid. Over email later that night, we figured out we only lived a few minutes away from each other.

That was February 13. Knowing the next day was Valentine’s Day, we avoided calling each other, but promptly made plans for our second date on February 15. It snowed on our second date. We did doughnuts in the empty parking lot of our local grocery store, then got ice cream from Baskin-Robbins. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years, we’ve told family and friends a few different stories about how we met. Well, you just got the real story, and the reason why we never acknowledge Valentine’s Day.

Happy first date anniversary, T! I’m glad we did that meeting-people-from-online thing when it was still pretty weird. I love you! :)

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | 15 Responses

Using Social Networks for Customer Feedback + List of Free Tools

Product Management Consortium held an educational event on January 22, 2010. The topic was “Using Social Networks for Customer Feedback.” I had the honor of being on the panel with Shauna Causey of Comcast, and Chris Lindstrom of Ceptera. Our audience was mostly product management professionals. It was an evening of great discussions with a very technical and analytical group, which was a fantastic learning experience for me! The session was moderated by Gwen Gyldenege and Dave Manningsmith, whom I’ve come to know through my work with Social Media Club Seattle. Gwen had sent me some questions before the event so I thought I’d share my responses in a post.

Q: What’s the one thing you want people to walk away knowing about your experience in listening to the customer?

You might be surprised by how surprised your (prospective and existing) customers are when they find out you’re proactively listening and searching. So far, the responses I’ve received have been very positive. So, the simple decision to put your ears out there is already a winning move, especially if you do it before your competition.

Q: How did you go about finding people to listen to?

I’m all about free tools. I have no budget, no resource other than my own time. I started by learning about the environment and culture of various social networks from a personal perspective before attempting to establish a brand presence. It turned out to be a very rewarding strategy, because I’ve made connections, earned trust, made friends who have been very supportive of my adventures as Ben Bridge Girl.  That is one of the reasons why I’m here tonight. I shared my story with Gwen over wine and appetizers one night, and she asked me to bring the story to you.

One of my first goals was to find other retail jewelers, industry professionals and organizations. I do keyword searches to find customers and service opportunities. I also make it a point to connect with related industries, such as fashion bloggers, wedding related vendors and planners, the hospitality industry, etc. There’s very little chatter about Ben Bridge out there, which is an issue that needs to be address, but also represents a huge opportunity. That is very exciting to me.

Q: You tout yourself as a listener.  Why is that important?  Does that make customers more likely to talk to you?

It’s so easy for customers to throw out a tweet when they’re upset about the goods or service they received. This is especially true when it comes to something as emotional as jewelry purchasing and gift giving. Most of the time, disenchanted customers vent on blogs or public forums without really expecting any result, and they simply take their business elsewhere. Many recipients of (less than desirable) jewelry gifts would just put the gifts away in their jewelry boxes and forget about them. Without active listening, we may never find out about these lost opportunities. Listen, respond when appropriate, and they’ll usually open up to tell me the rest of their story. The more information I get from the customer, the better I can help solve their problems.

Q: Why Facebook & Twitter?  Do you plan to extend?

FB because that’s where a lot of our target audience is, and I see several fun opportunities with existing games/apps on FB.  Twitter because it was like the wild wild west for jewelry retailers. As of today (1/21/2010), Blue Nile has 408 followers, Zales has 457 , Fred Meyer has 591, and Ben Bridge has 715. I’ve made it a point to reach out and interact with fellow retailers as well as manufacturers.

An extension, in my opinion, would mean a more official presence in the near future on popular sites such as The Knot, iVillage, etc. The important thing, I believe, is to go where the customers already are, not to funnel them into where the company wants them.

Q: What things are hard for you (e.g., watching TV shows to connect with your customer?)

I’ve had to watch TV shows such as Tool Academy, More To Love, the Bachelor, and various award shows. A glass of wine usually helps me through them. Haha! Theses aren’t programs that I normally choose to watch, but I think it’s important to at least see it once for myself. Turns out, it’s been fun to observe. Another big motivator: while watching award shows, I learn a lot from industry professionals such as Cindy EdelsteinCheryl Kremkow, and Laura Parker, who have very sharp eyes for trend spotting and make it so much fun!

Q: Why did you decide to jump out and do it on your own? Would you do it again? Is it worth the pain? Has it helped you help your peers understand customer needs/wants better? Do you feel like you’re hanging out there in the wind?

I originally went out searching through social sites because I believe we needed more information to do better business analysis and projections. Would I go out and do it all over again? Absolutely! In fact, it’s a decision that I make every single day. I have learned more about existing and potential customers. In some ways, my interactions with them are not very different from what our sales associates already do very well, but they usually have to wait for customers to come in or call. I’m helping by strengthening existing relationships and building awareness. Yes, it’s frustrating at times, but one happy customer makes it all worthwhile. And if that happy customer comes with a great story, I’m over the moon!

Q: Did you learn from how your competition listened to or didn’t listen to the customer?

Most of Ben Bridge Jeweler’s competition were not listening very much last year. They’re listening more now. Independent jewelry stores are generally more advanced in their adoption of social media, and it makes sense. That has led me to think that perhaps every store in a chain should be empowered to act more like a boutique store and cater to the local culture, but that’s another discussion.

On Twitter, @BenBridgeGirl is all about listening and chatting. I very rarely push out sales messages. Most competitors do the exact opposite. Maybe they know something I don’t, but I believe my method of managing the @BenBridgeGirl Twitter account is appropriate for its (current) purpose. Every tweet is done by hand. I don’t use any tools to manage follower/following, and I don’t auto DM (direct message). When you talk to @BenBridgeGirl, you’re indeed talking to a person.

Q: Who did you emulate to get started?  Who are your mentors?

Elliott Pesut of Alaska Airlines. Brad Nelson of Starbucks Coffee. Michael Mschechter of Honora Pearls. Rod Brooks of PEMCO Insurance. They’ve all done a phenomenal job building “talkable brands,” hands on, everyday. More importantly, they’re always so great about sharing their experiences with others who are new to social media. One of the first welcoming tweet @BenBridgeGirl received was from @HonoraPearls, and I’ll never forget that.

I also prepared a brief handout for attendees, listing a few of my favorite free tools and resources for listening:

Google Alerts – I wake up to this every morning. So many possibilities here. Track to your heart’s content. Go crazy.

Twitter search – Set up a few basic searches, save them and revisit them throughout the day, or get them through RSS feed.

SocialMention – Real-time social media search and analysis; select 1 source or check them all. Provides some info on reach and sentiment.

HowSociable – Find out how a brand performs across the social web. It issues a “visibility score.” Good for comparing with competition. 😉

Trendrr – Business intelligence for digital and social media; track 10 trends a month for free.

Addict-o-matic – Creates a custom page of the latest on any topic or brand

A wiki of social media monitoring solutions – A fantastic + growing list compiled by Ken Burbary, for whom I have tremendous respect.

Posted in Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Responses

1% or 100%?

Since arriving at Ben Bridge in late 1997, I’ve heard an interesting idea being taught at many meetings: We don’t have to be 100% better in 1 way, just 1% better in 100 ways. (I’m paraphrasing a bit because the saying changes slightly from time to time.) It is usually used in the context of sales training. Over the years, I keep revisiting this idea and using it as a yardstick against various things we do around the company. If I understand the original intent correctly, and I believe I do (after hearing it for over a decade) — if a business strives to be just a little bit better than its competitions in numerous ways, it would win.

I’ve attempted to bring the idea to a more personal level. Do I want to be 1% better than my peers in 100 ways, or 100% better in 1 way? This question lingered in my head for days, so I sent it out on Twitter to see what comes back. This reply stuck with me:

Ray Page's reply

Practically speaking, it is quite taxing to keep track of 100 things/skills/abilities and try to “1% up” in all of them. My attention would be completely scattered. Would I feel a sense of pride or personal satisfaction by being only 1% better at something? I doubt it, but that’s just me. You know what’s even less appealing? Having to constantly keep an eye on the competition, just to make sure I’m still keeping that 1% distance. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Back to business. Consumers have an over-abundance of choices, and attention span is shorter than ever. If a store is 1% better than its neighbor in 100 ways, would you notice? Take jewelry stores for example. There are so many of them in every shopping mall. And let’s be honest, they all look the same. What would make you choose to walk into one jewelry store over another?

Here’s what I think. Being 1% better in 100 ways is risky, because in the customer’s eyes, you’ll never get credit for all 100 ways you’ve worked on. Why? You only have the customer’s attention for so long. There’s not enough time to deliver the cumulative impact of your 1% times 100. Being only 1% better leaves so much to chance, including factors out of your control that could easily sway customers in the opposite direction.

But being 100% better in 1 way seems so narrowly focused,  you say. That 1 way isn’t going to appeal to everyone, you’re afraid. Ok, fine, how about 50% better in 2 ways? The universal truth is that you’ll never please everyone. You have to believe that what you have to offer isn’t for everyone, either, because it’s special, and hopefully, you’ve done your homework to know that your target customers will appreciate it. Your business has to lead with a wider margin, to truly differentiate yourself. What you want is to stand out in your customer’s eyes and make them say wow. What you want is to be remarkable.

I choose 100%, 1 way. How about you?

Thanks to Ray Page for the thought-provoking reply.

P.S. Also thanks to @dacort and his awesome app TweetStats for helping me locate Ray’s tweet for this post.

Posted in Life, Work | Tagged , | 11 Responses
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