Wondering Out Loud

Charging into social media

This space is normally reserved for my observations about social media as it pertains to marketing, especially in the B2B space. While this post is not a complete departure, it is somewhat outside the norm.

I was recently asked to play with and review the new Droid Charge by Samsung for Verizon Wireless. Fortunately for me the offer came just before I was to leave for Seattle on a business trip. As the reason for the trip was attend SMX Advanced it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the Charge a test drive. Specifically, I wanted to find out how well the phone performs in completing standard social media tasks: shooting and uploading images and video. But I’ll start with a few general observations.

First 4G plus the 1GHz processor kick tail: the upload and download speeds are fabulous. I could tell without looking at the top display when I was in a 3G area by the noticeable change in performance.

And speaking of the display…I don’t recall seeing one that is as large or vivid as the one on this phone. Measuring 4.3″ the trademarked Super AMOLED touch screen is the best I’ve ever had the privlidege of using and am looking forward to doing so again in the, hopefully, near future.  When I was first handed the phone, I thought the size, 5.11″ by 2.66″ would make it difficult to carry and handle, but was happily surprised to find that not to be the case.

The Charge sits on the Android 2.2 platform and has more than 150,0o0 apps available for download. I didn’t look at all of them, but did enough searching through the app market to see that if you have something specific in mind, you’ll find an app to do the job.

Now, on to the job at hand: images and video.

As I said earlier, my primary goal was to learn how well the charge performs in uploading images and video to social media sites. I make my living using social media to promote OptiMine Software – Seattle was my first official assignment as the new Director of Marketing. To assist me, my first act was to download apps for the appropriate social sites; TweetDeck, Facebook and YouTube. As expected the downloads went smoothly and pinning the icons to the desktop was simple and intuitive.

The phone performed very well when shooting both still images and video. The 4″+ display made the job especially easy, particularly when panning in video mode.  When it comes to sharing the Charge is pretty slick. The left hand button at the bottom of the phone acts as the menu for everything. simply push it and it returns the commands that are specific to the screen, app, website, etc. that is active in the display.

If you want to share your image on Facebook select share, then scroll to and select Facebook and, bingo, your image is attached to your wall. The same process holds for YouTube – shoot, select, share. In the case of YouTube, however, I had trouble uploading video to my channel. The app told me the upload was taking place, and I could see that it was across the top activity bar, but I have yet to find where they ended up.

Considering how well the phone performed otherwise, I’m convinced that the problem with the video upload is user error.

Bottom line, I really like this phone. I’m not ready for an upgrade for another 18 months, but when the time comes, the Charge will be high on my list.

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June 20, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , | Leave a comment

Social is great, but it can’t replace personal

Social media is a great way to engage with your market – we all know that – and an untold number of companies are now taking part. But I’ve been concerned that too many of the younger folk who are growing up in the world of social networking are going to fail miserably when forced to communicate face-to-face rather than Facebook-to-Facebook.

While I still believe there is reason to be concerned, I discovered – actually it was my 12 year old son – two local establishments that employ teens and young adults that are so customer-centric, I was pleasantly shocked by the way these young kids conduct themselves. What hit me hardest, though, is I never expected it because of my own perception of the culture they are immersed in. In this case, as in most, perception is not reality.

Before I elaborate, I need to provide a little background.

My 12 year old son discovered Aggressive Inline Skating (AIL) during summer vacation. If you don’t know what it is, take a few minutes to watch the video. He’s been (ice) skating  and playing hockey for several years already, but when he found AIL he fell in love. He’s not quite to the level of the guys in this video, but he’s having a hell of a good time trying to get there.

After several months of skating at the local indoor skate park, 3rd Lair, in traditional inline skates, mom and I decided to find him a used pair built for the type of skating he’s doing. Knowing nothing about them, I did as much online research as possible and went forth to find a pair. He tried ’em and liked ’em – just like Mikey – then we decided to get an expert opinion. The guy’s at 3rd Lair were the first stop.

They not only took the time to answer all of our questions, they also answered several questions we didn’t think to ask. Just to be clear, there’s was no profit motive at work here as 3rd Lair deals in skateboards, not skates. After giving us as much advice as they could, their last bit was a recommendation that we visit a shop called Pinewski’s.

Pinewski’s deals in skis, skateboards, knee boards, and inline. We brought our used skates to the shop hoping to learn just how good a deal Dad got on them and to find out if they were any good. For the next 30 minutes, a young man named Steve gave us a tutorial on aggressive inline skating and, in the end, we found that Dad, I, did make a good purchase, but that the bearings were a bit worn. He did recommend a replacement bearing, but also said it would be better if the lad spent a few weeks on the skates before taking on the extra speed the bearings would bring him. Here the guy could have made a sale, but recommended something that would, at best, delay us from spending or, at worst, have us buy the bearings from a shop closer to home.

Both young men were doing exactly what we try to do with social media: share our expertise, without selling, knowing that we are building credibility in the market and putting our companies in a position win future sales. I don’t know if either was conscious of the tactics they were using, but I tend to doubt because other experiences tell me it is part of the culture to coach and mentor those who have an interest in skating.

Too often, what is now called social is anything but personal. It’s nice to know there are at least a couple of places where personal comes first.

It gives me confidence that we won’t completely loose the real in favor of the digital.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social media without strategy is the black hole of communications

Black Hole: A region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape.

If  you are using social tools to communicate with your audience without the benefit of a strategy, you are the proud owner of your very own black hole. Everything you produce – blog post, tweet, podcast, Facebook update, YouTube video – every last scrap of content is being hurled into a void so dark and vast it will only be consumed by those who happen to trip over it. I’ve seen it before. A lot. It’s usually the result of misguided notion that any content is better than no content. Unfortunately, that same idea ignores the fact that no content is preferable to bad content.

Even today, the same marketing professionals who diligently plan every aspect of every campaign, taking care to make sure every detail is accounted for, don’t think twice about what is being posted to the company blog. Whether it’s a website, brochure, commercial or blog post, what you produce represents the company that provides your paycheck and treating any content as second class is doing that company a disservice.

If you’re serious about making social media part of your communications activities, make it part of your strategy development, treat the content as you do other deliverables and give social media equal standing when discussing your activities. If you do you’ll find your content living in the bright light of the Internet being consumed by people who sought it out and have a genuine interest in what your company has to say.

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The rebirth of written communication

In a Wall Street Journal piece, author Orson Scott Card puts forth the theory that, among the many benefits it has delivered to society, the Internet has turned the tide and made the work of historians easier. Now that may seem obvious once it is stated, but to those who’ve been in the business of preserving and analyzing history for the past several decades it is also a blessing.

Card opens his column recalling an exchange with his father-in-law, himself a historian:

My father-in-law is a historian, and about 20 years ago he mentioned his concern that cheap long-distance telephoning was going to make the work of future historians far harder.

“Letters are one of our best sources of information about the past, but these days nobody writes letters—they just call.”

“Yes, and I hate that,” I said. “Interrupting what I’m doing right now because this is the moment when it’s convenient for them to call.”

Little did we know that both of us were about to get our wish.

Having grown up in the era of written (in ink) communication – letters, thank you cards, party invitations, birthday cards, etc.  –  I have lamented the loss of the art. But I never considered the treasure trove of historical information that was bleeding away during the gap in time between the explosion of telephone communication and the advent of email.

Two of the most prolific letter writers in US history were John and Abigail Adams. Imagine how difficult a job David McCullough would have had writing his magnificent biography of Adams if not for the hundreds of quill-penned communications between the two. Think how much poorer we would be as a country if we did not have such as intimate insight to two people who were critical to the founding of the USofA.

What would we really know about either of them, their relationship, the inner most thoughts and ideas about what they were going through if John had had the ability to simply pick up a phone and give Abigail a call from Philadelphia or Paris?

I will still, from time to time, lament the loss of the ink-written letter, but having read Card’s wonderful column I will do so knowing that his father-in-law is now preserving and analyzing history by scouring electronic communications.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Communications | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress to turn down the volume on television commercials

Time to vent.

Congress is set to pass a bill that will mandate volume maximums for television commercials. The new CALM Act (Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation) has already passed the Senate and should clear the House later this week.

Like most, I’m annoyed by the increase in volume that occurs when commercials interrupt programming, but is it really necessary to pass a law to regulate it? It seems to me there are far bigger problems Congress should be addressing than a minor annoyance that can be eliminated by proper use of the remote control.

I guess you can tell I think this is a silly bill and a complete waste of time, but in reading the article in today’s Wall Street Journal Online I did get a chuckle from this quote from FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard:

“Isn’t it the most annoying thing in the whole world?” says FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard. “It drives my husband crazy—I mean he already hates TV, and he’s like, ‘Why is the TV so loud?'”

Did anyone else think immediately of the 1983 movie Valley Girl?

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More leads! More leads! More leads!

I experienced one of those ugly moments when a bad memory comes flooding back to the fore for no discernible reason. This one dates back almost a decade, to my early years in the marketing department of SoftBrands, a one-time enterprise software company that was acquired by Infor, a much larger enterprise software company, a bit more than one year ago.

The pain started when the sales manager stopped by my office to discuss the need to increase qualified sales leads. It seems her team was not busy enough with the 50 we were sending each month (10 m0re than the 40 required to meet quota), so she wanted us to increase the total to 80.

Happy to accommodate her request, I tried to start a discussion about the additional dollars that would be necessary. It is a discussion that went nowhere. Not to be stymied, I brought up the subject of changing the definition of a qualified sales lead. With a few tweaks to the criteria, like purchase time line, my team would be able to achieve the doubled quota. That suggestion was less popular than increasing the budget.

So, there I stood, staring at a sales manager who wanted me to perform the modern-day equivalent of the fishes and loaves. Being a mere mortal, I told here it would be easier if she would ask me to spin straw into gold. I quickly found that was the wrong thing to say.

Sales people are always asking for more leads, but they fail to see that, when lead generation is done correctly, less can actually be more. Let me explain.

Some time later in my tenure at SoftBrands we made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on penetrating a handful of very specific manufacturing micro-verticals that we were really good at: medical device, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food & beverage. At first the sales team was concerned about the inevitable reduction that would result when we choked off the flow of leads. But as we implemented the strategy, they came to realize a few important facts:

  1. The number of leads did drop dramatically
  2. The quality of leads increased in the same way
  3. They were spending less time chasing deals that were unlikely to result in wins
  4. Wins – individual and team – increased considerably

For us, the ultimate road to success was not expanding the criteria and pumping more leads into the pipe. On the contrary, by focusing our resources and tightening the definition of a qualified sales lead, we were able to achieve our sales goals and do away forever with the mantra:

More leads! More leads! More leads!

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Advertising Age provides weekly Foursquare report

Advertising Age has started listing the top Foursquare “check-in” locations from the previous week. Forgetting the possibility that today’s list is skewed because of “Black Friday”, I have to wonder exactly what purpose this list serves. If future lists continue to contain only brands that are recognized across the country and around the world, then this would seem to be nothing but filler.

I’m more interested in seeing check-in levels at local and regional establishments. I don’t care if Target and Starbucks have hundreds, if not thousands of hits (if they don’t, then I want to know about it), but Dunn Brothers Coffee (89 locations in 9 states) or Once Upon a Mystery bookstore (one location), seeing their Foursquare stats is more compelling to me.

I suspect the weekly lists will not vary much through Christmas, and that we will see an uptick in national bar and restaurant brands as the Holiday Party season ramps up, but 2011 will be the true test for the value of the list.

When the history of the Advertising Age Foursquare tracking chart is written, the first few weeks may deserve a Barry Bonds-like asterisk.

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Social Media | | Leave a comment

Anti social media

Several months ago I wrote a post about what I considered to be a potential abuse of Twitter. It involved an influential basketball coach who used her Twitter account to complain about a nonspecific customer service problem she encountered at one of her favorite restaurants. A restaurant that she had praised via Twitter in the past. I took no side in this particular incident because the facts didn’t exist to do so, but it did cause me to wonder about how people using social media and whether they are taking their complaints public without giving the object of their scorn an opportunity to make good. My opinion is that the scorn-er deserves a chance before the scorn-ee takes to the Web.

I know there are people who use abusive tactics so they can pump up their numbers, but some boarder on negligent. One – which I will not name because I have no desire to add to their numbers – has a Twitter profile that reads:

Have a horrible experience with a company CSR? Get noticed and PUT ‘EM ON BLAST with the [deleted by me] tag and we’ll RT!

Personally, I find the proprietor of this account to be, well, a jerk.

Anyone can complain about anything and this, well, jerk, is willing to take the word of someone he/she’s never heard of and push it across the Twitter-sphere without verification. All ya gotta do is use the hash tag and he/she will retweet the message, no questions asked. Who cares about what actually happened or how it went down, if you know the hash tag you’ll get noticed.

The account is only two months old and has a whopping 48 followers, but there is a standard that he/she seems willing to ignore. Most will look at the tweets coming from this account and see them for what they are, but in this new environment all it takes is a few to take an isolated complaint and make it seem like a widespread problem. Those are the ones I worry about.

The world and the Web are filled with information that ranges from inaccurate to outright wrong. It’s up to each of us to be responsible, to verify before Tweeting and to push those who are irresponsible to the sidelines.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | Social Media | | Leave a comment

Social Media: It’s easy to spell, but…

It’s the season of interns and entry-level hopefuls. Resumes are pouring in and I’m reviewing those who made the first cut. Like all good potential bosses, I’ve been surfing the web looking for LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages and blog and Twitter accounts. So far the results are less than impressive. I realize this whole social media thing is still relatively new, but, let’s face it, if you are going to put the words on your resume you had better have the digital footprint that proving you can do more than spell “Social Media.” All the pdf resumes I’ve seen to date do have a web-based counter part in a LinkedIn account, but, rather than painting a fuller picture of the applicant, the online profile is an exact copy of the document sitting in my inbox.

This leads me to ask a couple of questions:

  1. Am I expecting too much from today’s college juniors and seniors, especially those pursuing a career in social media?
  2. Should I be expecting ore from the career counselors who help students navigate the choppy employment waters?

I’d love to see your answers to both, but here are mine: No and Yes.

No: Today’s college students grew up on the web. Social networking is in their DNA and anyone who is looking to enter the job market – entry level or as in intern – needs to have, at the very least, a LinkedIn profile that is full and complete, including recommendations. If you have skeleton profile that is nothing more than a copy of your resume, you are wasting your time and the time of anyone who might be interested in learning more about you. If you are specifically interested in marketing and PR – where SM lives – the digital requirement is even more important.

Remember the good old days when the cry was: “Everyone wants someone with experience, but how can I get experience if no one will hire me.”? Web 2.o0 has given everyone – including my 15 year old son – what they need to gain as much experience as they want. Five years ago I advised a college freshman, planning to major in PR, to start a blog and write about her passion, early American authors. Doing so in 2005 would have put her well in front of her college peers and, today, she would have a robust presence to point potential employers to. Unfortunately she didn’t take my advice and is just another member of the pack looking for work.

Yes: Career counselors in colleges and universities are doing a doing students a disservice if they are not adding social media, in general and LinkeIn specifically to the list of activities their charges should be engaged in. I’ll go so far as to say they should be given LinkedIn training so they can help students make the most of the site. The paper resume – although still important – does not have the power it once did. While it has always been a snap shot of the individual, the resume loses a bit of luster when put against the dynamic nature of a LinkedIn, blog and Twitter.

Going digital is more than a recommendation, it is an imperative. Like investing for the future, the sooner you start the bigger the return you’ll realize. If you wait until your getting ready to graduate and look for that first “real” job, you’re starting too late.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Caveat Emptor, if you’re using social media

A friend of a friend asked me if I knew anything about a particular social media organization. Now, considering one cannot swing a dead marketer without hitting an association, or society, or foundation, or professional organization that brings social media practitioners together I didn’t consider it unusual that I would not have heard of the one in question.

So, with name in hand I set off for the Google to do a little research. What I found was a website, LinkedIn and Facebook pages, and YouTube video. Among other items – not generated by the organization – were blog posts (some +, some -), articles, and comments. All in all, I was able to find a fair amount of information, but not enough to help me draw any conclusions about the organization’s credibility, which is why I’m not revealing the name of the group). At one point, I thought I had struck on a blog post asserting the organization’s leader is an inept boob. Problem is, the writer offered no evidence to prove his contention.

In the world of Web 2.0, where anybody with a computer and internet access can publish/distribute whatever they wish, there is an additional burden on the consumer to do their due diligence. We’ve all heard stories of erroneous facts making their way onto Wikipedia pages, but that site is just a small part of the wwww and bad fact, half-truths, and outright lies are more likely to show up on personal blogs.

So let me distill what I learned. When doing internet research, it’s important to take everything you read, hear, or see with a really big grain of salt. After you’ve completed your research, and before you draw any conclusions, discuss it with someone you know and trust – and I’m not talking about someone you only know from Twitter. Finally, as with anything, unless you are certain of the sellers credibility and veracity, “Caveat Emptor” rules the day.

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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