No, thank YOU!

As part of my yearly resolutions I decided that I should try to read more – at least a book per month.  And I intend to do it.  It won’t always be a “work” related book, but it keeps me in the habit.

A couple of months ago, I heard about Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book ‘The Thank You Economy”. The book is essentially a call to arms to all businesses to join and use social networks/social media to promote and sell.  It goes through the caring & commitment needed, tips, ideas, case studies and statistics about doing so.  It’s the only way to re-humanise business.  We have moved too far from local community shops where everyone knows everyone, to a time where companies are faceless; where your relationship with your local shops only extends to a ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’.

I’ve always been quite interested in SM and Gary is an infectious speaker; full of energy and passion (see this video).  I decided that I would give it a go. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Vaynerchuk defines TYE as (essentially) a throwback to the 50s, where businesses knew their customers personally, knew their needs intimately and delivered diligently. They knew that if they didn’t people would go elsewhere.  He believes social media gives us the opportunity to create that one-to-one relationship enjoyed by our elders.

He takes us through a brief history of how we have come full circle to a place where customers demand individuality, appreciation and authenticity from the people they do business with.

He goes through objections to social media (and provides arguments to counteract them) and what businesses need to be aware of/need in order to make the most of this opportunity. He also notes the biggest mistakes companies make with Social Media:

  • using tactics instead of strategy
  • using it just to put out fires
  • using it to brag
  • using it as a one way communication vehicle
  • just retweeting other people’s content
  • only pushing product
  • expecting quick results

Lastly, and this is where the book gets really interesting, he goes through several case studies where people have used social media to good effect for their business – in a variety of sizes and a variety of industries.

Do I believe in it all? Not all of it, but a large extent.  I think bigger, more established companies will always struggle more to ‘get with the times’ &  make it work simply because of the bureaucracy and hurdles involved in making things happen in such monolithic organisations.

Nevertheless, all in all, this was a really enjoyable book with many valid points, perspectives and arguments. I think anyone involved in social media would benefit from reading it – especially if only just starting their business and looking for a cheap (but time consuming) way of promoting it or companies who are just starting to dip their toes in the water.

Below are some quotes from the book (some salient to social media, others just amusing) as well as an illustrated version of the book (courtesy of Ogilvynotes).

Real business isn’t done in board meetings; it’s done over a half-eaten plate of buffalo wings at the sports bar…

In 1984, you’d get stuffed in your locker for gloating over your new Apple Macintosh; in 2007 you could score a hot date by showing off your new iPhone.

There’s only so low you can go on price. There’s only so excellent you can make your product or service.  There’s only so far you can stretch your marketing budget.  Your heart, though – that’s boundless.

Everybody counts, and gets the best I have to give.

But they’re not going to give me that chance unless the other guy slips up.  And even then they’d probably give him a second chance, because forgiveness is the hallmark of a good relationship.

..if you wait until social media is able to prove itself to you before deciding to engage with your customers one–on-one, you’ll have missed your greatest window of opportunity to move ahead of your competitors.

The customer you should be scared of is the one who has a bad experience, doesn’t say a word, and never returns.

It remembered that behind every B2B transaction, there’s a C.


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What came first? The geolocation business or geolocation customer?

I love geolocation. I love Foursquare and I’m trying to love SCVNGR. The promised land for these sites is great with location based offers providing a great opportunity for brands to attract passing footfall, drive loyalty and trial.

However, the reality is still far from that. The problem is, other than competing with friends for points and trying to get Mayorships, I’m getting nothing from these sites.

I know the technology is there but the shop/brand adoption is not.  Whilst I cannot be certain of what that is I would offer the following theories:

  1. Reach of these sites is not yet wide enough for big brands to adopt – As a result the shops/brand people use on a regular basis are not offering the deals the technology promises and can deliver
  2. Lack of small business adopting it means that from a brand/retailer perspective, the technology is still in the early adopter phase – the technology is still a long way off reaching the tipping point and that means that the interactions people can have with brands, the sites and each other is still very limited. Widespread adoption by small business is what will start to drive that forward and once it does then user base size will rapidly increase in size
  3. Go to market strategy was wrong – because this type of interaction and possibility was so new simply launching it as a game (as much fun and as useful as gamification is) limited it’s appeal to people beyond gamers and those who really needed to be involved (i.e. retailers).  

Personally I think these sites will have a big future in commerce, but they need to do a major recruitment drive to get adoption with 2-3 country specific big, nationwide retailers that people use everyday (coffee houses, supermarkets, petrol companies) and lots of smaller businesses that will help provide case studies for even bigger recruitment drives.

A clear case of  chicken and egg.  Customers won’t come if there are no retailers, retailers won’t play if a user base isn’t there.

How do you feel about the adoption of geolocation by businesses and consumers? Are you Foursquare-d up? If so, befriend me.

[UPDATE] Just released was this infographic from Mashable


Live by the sword, die by the sword

Today I read something that really got my goat.

Groupon, the current darling of ecommerce has decided to slam their agency over their SuperBowl ads.

Now, you can feel however you please about the ads – some people have found them offensive, others not.  I’m on the side of they’re crap – they’re not really funny (as they are trying to be) and they’re not clever.  They say very little to me (and I’ve used Groupon here in the UK).

What I object to is the blame being laid solely at the door of the agency.

Mr Mason says “…we turned off the part of our brains where we should’ve made our own decisions.  We learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”  I’m sorry, but where the hell were Groupon’s marketing team when this was being developed?  Who approved it? And if no one at Groupon approved them, then they deserve what they get.

As a CEO, Mr Mason should be big enough to admit that the company made a mistake running such a sh*t campaign. What message is that sending to its employees?  And, why would any other agency want to work with them now, if at the first hurdle they’re just going to roll over on you?

At agencies we talk a lot about being our clients’ partner not their supplier but that has to go both ways.  A client needs to trust their agency and an agency must trust that the client is working with them, not against them.

Agencies are not perfect – like everyone else we screw up at times, but we know when to own up.

So, Groupon… MAN UP & SHUT UP!

A bubble and a song

Much has been made recently over the valuations of websites such as Facebook and Groupon ($50bn and $15bn respectively).  The main question being whether these high valuations mean the advent of a new dot-com bubble.

My view is that we will have one, not as pronounced as the one just over 10 years ago but one nonetheless.  My reasons are simple

  • Lack of clarity over the business plan.  Apart from Groupon, none of the big sites really has a convincing business plan for long term strategy.  The reason being that neither Facebook not Twitter were ever developed with monetisation in mind.  Making money from the site was an after-thought once they’d caught on.  Twitter has realised this is an issue and changed CEO but the issue remains.  Facebook is a means of finding and keeping in touch with friends, Twitter is a microblogging service.  Neither of these was developed with the intention of serving ads to people.  Google’s IPO worked because they were monetising something based on what people were after.
  • The sites are over-valued.  Anyone investing knows that they will not make much money from this activity so why invest? Plus, how much is Facebook and Twitter worth to people?  My contention is $0 – you’re not going to pay for something which used to be free and I don’t really care if I lose touch with ‘friends’ who I’ve never contacted using Facebook.  Those that I want to keep in touch with I will find ways to keep in touch with.
  • The web is cyclical… only 4/5 years ago people were saying how MySpace was going to revolutionise the web.  Right now it is about to layoff a whole load of people.  Web2.0 was about collaboration but collaboration came at a price… Free… meaning the horse is already bolted in the race to make money out of this.
  • What about the infrastructure?  How will that impact (a) how current services are delivered, and (b) what new services arise?

That’s enough gloom for now, time for a song