Socializing with Deal Seekers

October 8th, 2010 No comments

(cross posted on the Ogilvy Fresh Influence blog)

CouponShareThe folks at Whale Shark Media were kind enough to invite me to join the esteemed Dr. Kate Niederhoffer in engaging some of their partners around how to get the most out of social media.  This sounds like an average assignment right up until the moment that I tell you Whale Shark Media is “rollup” of affiliate sites like CheapStingyBargains, and CouponShare and that everyone in the room was an affiliate channel manager in many cases not on their brand’s “social team”.   Not your typical day at the office, but who doesn’t love a challenge?

When I last touched affiliate marketing (providing special, limited time deals to coupon aggregators), it was a 100% siloed channel that the brand never pointed to for fear of cannibalizing their own channels.  This is actually very similar brick & mortar strategies of forcing outlet malls 20+ miles out of cities to not hurt the sales of their full-priced stalwarts.  Additionally, it was 100% transactional – no conversation or insights beyond what triggered transactions.

In preparation for today, I learned that social media has forever changed what it means to build a relationships with a brands deal seekers (who are not necessarily the same as your brand fans).   While there is a whole spectrum of approaches, Kate & I summed them up as follows:

Branded, but Separate: Some brands choose to host separate, branded presences laser-focused on deals.  Dell hosts both a separate “Dell Deals” Facebook fan page for limited-time deals on new systems and  @delloutlet for deals on refurbished equipment that rarely interact with the rest of their social footprint.  Similarly Gap has set up a separate @gapoutlet handle and Facebook fan page for the Gap Outlet brand.  These have the opportunity to not just spew deals, but create content about what their brands deal-seekers potentially care about – “promotions, ideas from our stylists and budget-wise tips” – even if that differs from the motivations of the rest of their buying audience.

Integrated with Primary Brand Presence: Retailer Best Buy has both @BestBuy and @BestBuy_Deals.  The Deals flavor hosts straight deals and no engagement (correctly stated in bio), but the difference  here is that @BestBuy will intermittently point to and promote what is happening in the Deals handle.  This only works if you are comfortable shining a light on your sweetest deals and nodding to the fact that we are all “deal-seekers” in the right context.

Deals Shared by Third Party Voices: The deal sites themselves also have a personality and a knowledge of their users to bring to the table.  Brands who create offers for deal sites and trust in the site’s ability to cultivate their community have much to gain in uptake on their deals.   Who wouldn’t want to chow down on this?

Stuff your face with greatness tonight! Print a coupon for free chips and queso from Chili’s here: (@cheapstingy)

As brands go farther and farther into social media and presences proliferate, the need for clear missions, roles and responsibilities will continue to heighten.  The fact that there is no sole “best practice” should be a call to experimentation and optimization for all.  Hopefully the challenge of mixing media aimed at different parts of the funnel will not hold it back.

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5 Desired Traits for Digital PR Pros

September 18th, 2010 No comments

Yesterday was my first meeting with Arun Sundhaman from the Holmes Report.  We had a great discussion largely focused on trends that we see emerging across our clients.  He was very interested, however, in some work that we have recently done internally on crystallizing what it is we look for in candidates for the 360 Digital Influence Group.  These are both based on an analysis of what skillsets we’d like to add to our merry band and the qualities that we have seen make professionals especially successful within the group.

If you’re interested in the “5 Traits” that we have identified, please check out this brief video of me walking through the explanation that Arun shared on his site:

TEDWomen and Workplace Femaleness

August 31st, 2010 1 comment

Mary and MerylLast week I completed my TEDWomen application.  While no application questions specifically address gender, outlining my greatest achievements or imagining how a friend might describe me in the context of the conference has inspired me to do a substantial amount of personal navel gazing about my gender  and specifically women in the workplace.  As you might have guessed, this post won’t be about WOM so keep reading if you dare.

There was an active debate around having a separate TED conference on women – largely sparked by some awkward text that was used to introduce the notion of the event which is now resolved.  I was torn less by the existence of such a conference and more by whether or not I would actually enjoy attending.  God help me for admitting this, but I reacted very negatively to Eve Ensler’s performance at TED 2010.  The work felt like it was directly pandering to the guilt of the powerful and largely male audience (who gave her an instant standing ovation).  I sat and clapped politely.  It was similar to the cringey feeling I had when watching the I am Woman karaoke scene in Sex and the City 2 and wanted to yell at the screen “I am NOT like you”. Meanwhile, lots of woman at TED 2010 inspired me greatly – including games researcher Jane McGonigal , the unique perspectives of Temple Grandin, and grand dame ocean-pioneer Sylvia Earle.   Gender had nothing to do with their work or what they spoke about.  So, am I uncomfortable with women who use their femaleness as a “hook” for work, artistic expression, or popularity?  For whom it is their “shtick”?  Am I a self-hater who wants to be a man deep down?  No, indeed.

Being a woman in the workplace comes with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges.  I am now of the mind that not discussing it or attempting to ignore its differentness is fruitless and is not going to help me or anyone else excel.  From the trivialities of navigating the minefields of workplace dress to gracefully handling assumptions and double standards of others, it is just different.  Whenever I get the at-least-weekly well meaning comment “it must be hard to be away from your son so much”, it takes every ounce of decorum I have to maintain a normal tone of voice and reply that while it is, it is also difficult for my male colleagues who have similar schedules and families, but we love what we do and are lucky have strong support at home.

It is this minor epiphany that sparked me to apply.  Could I do a better job of understanding, coaching and growing those around me?  Could I do more to give back to other women in my community at large and in other cultures?  And could I do that more adeptly with more knowledge and ideas?  Without a doubt.  Regardless of whether or not I make the grade on attendance for this event, the process has certainly made me a bit more thoughtful about who I am as a woman in business and how I choose to handle myself and invest in those around me.  I firmly believe there is an authentic path that is neither Devil Wears Prada nor Mary Poppins and, while I am bound to stumble upon it innumerable times, it is a path worth travelling.

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Scaling the Social Media Organization

July 28th, 2010 No comments

rsz_right_turnYou’ve successfully passed through “phase 1″ of your company’s social media evolution where just a few expert voices represented your brand online.  Now you are handing over the keys to a larger, more representative group of speakers.  How can you make sure that this proliferation increases, not fragments, your impact online?  How do you prevent someone going off the reservation?  Through guardrails, governance, and training (oh my!).  Here’s a checklist from basic fundamental to advanced degree:

  1. Employee Social Media Guidelines – You’ll have to keep revising them and they’ll never be complete, but without them, employees won’t know what they’re allowed to do, whether they’re a spokesperson for your company, etc.  These are not one size fits all, but for a template or inspiration, check out Social Media Governance.
  2. Corporate Social Media Strategy – You may remember a (small sample) report from earlier in the summer stating that more than half of companies actively engaging in social media had no strategy and no agreed upon success metrics.  While you might be able to pull that off with a couple of voices online, it will not scale.  A strategy will create the justification for future guardrails of what activities are in an out of bounds, roles and responsibilities, and success metrics.  This is where you should also define what adding more voices online will accomplish for the company so that everyone knows why they’re getting involved
  3. Cross-Functional SM Working Group – Whether you call yourselves a committee, task force, or the Bay City Rollers, you will need a cross functional internal working group to create and socialize strategy and policy as it evolves and to handle anything that pops up.  For bonus points, don’t just include product, marketing, care and communications – you will benefit from talent acquisition, HR, and legal being consistently at the table as well.
  4. Documentation of Goals, Roles, Responsibilities, Response Guidelines  – Knowing them is not enough.  As your organization grows and as customers find you in social spaces, you’ll want to have crisp external definitions of your mission in social places and the type of service or responses that customers can expect.  Internally, you’ll need to know who is responsible for what spaces and have a documented, agreed upon way to handle inquiries or comments from customers and escalation paths for things that could potentially go wrong.
  5. Process for Initiating NEW SM Projects – If you are fighting the tide of proliferation of handles and pages using your brand, create a way for marketers in your organization interested in starting another social project to think through all the necessary elements of adding a new project to the ecosystem and ask them to explain why their needs can’t be met through existing social channels.  Letting growth happen totally organically could lead to a maze that makes it difficult for customers to find the “real” you.
  6. Training on All of the Above – Figure out how you can train and engage your organization on the elements above.  Maybe some can be done in person, but for items impacting all employees, you may want to look to on demand video training to make sure everyone has full access.
  7. Regular Communications of Performance to Metrics – Once your expanded organization is up and running, close the loop with communication with how you are performing to the metrics in your strategy.  Honoring standouts and accomplishment can keep your expanded social media crew rowing hard in the right direction.

This is formulated based on my experience in house and on the agency side helping multiple organizations with this transition.  What did I miss?  What’s your checklist?

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BWOW: Wow Bao

June 7th, 2010 No comments

WowBaoIf you’re wondering who owns the eyebrow-lift-inducing Facebook vanity “hotasianbuns”, look no further than Chicago’s own Wow Bao.  Wow Bao is a concept of Lettuce Entertain You, but it has a social media voice and plan of action all its own.   Geoff Alexander, Wow Bao’s Managing Partner joined me on a panel at WOMMA’s School of WOM and shared enough of those elements to make me want to learn more.  The personality and choices that Wow Bao has made qualify it as a Brand Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW) – a brand for whom there is a passionate set of fans that would give up a weekend with their families to come “immerse” themselves in the brand – learn more, meet the people behind the brand, and want to have a hand in crafting the brand’s future.  So what’s Wow Bao’s recipe for a talkable, weekend-worthy brand?

Product Offering w/ Story, Ritual, & Explanation – Chicago is a food town, but steamed Asian Buns aren’t the most common offering by far.  The product itself provides the opportunity for Word of Mouth to be exchanged – in location or on their website in the “the Way of the Bao” video.

Sauce-Up Your Brand Voice – @BaoMouth – Their brand voice on Twitter is the disembodied Bao Mouth.  The spicy Bao Mouth’s location and identity remain a closely guarded trade secret (even when I pressed Mr. Alexander on stage).  It is interesting to note that this is usually counter to what we think of as a best practice in terms of building relationships through transparency, but here it truly adds to the Bao mystique.  What we do know is that he/she is not only listening for mentions of Wow Bao, but ready to comment on other seemingly irrelevant, but fun tweets.  My favorite today:

I’m gonna walk in through the out door all day today RT @CarolBlymire: Prince turns 52. How will YOU be celebrating his birthday?”

Surprise & Delight with Innovation – Despite (or maybe because?) Wow Bao is in Chicago and only rocking a handful of locations, they are innovating their marketing at light speed.  They know that young, digital, early adopters are their bun eaters, so they have experimented by being one of the first restaurants in Chicago to offer Foursquare deals (in fall 09), they have an iPhone app, remote ordering and shipping anywhere in the US, Facebook weekly “secret word” deals, Foursquare Mayor rituals that walk the walk in store (this talkability has to manifest IRL after all), and mobile single-use barcoded coupons with Mocapay.  Even if 75% of these fail, they’re worth remarking about and, while experimental, that probably justifies the ROI on its own.

What other brands are challenging their audiences by pushing their marketing bounds vs. being dragged into the future?  Or using the complexity of their product as a WOM advantage?