Twitter Tantrum

On September 15, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

Complaining on Twitter endlessly about how a brand #FAIL’s is sadly the go-to thing for too many people.
You know when you’re at a restaurant and there’s a child at the next table whining endlessly in an annoying voice. Yeah, that’s you on Twitter.

For every one person who publicly agrees with your ‘rant’ there are 10 who privately say, enough already.
Yes brands are listening and responding, and sometimes the result is not what you want, but when you go ranting/negative then that just turns people off.


Meet Eric, Read Eric

On August 18, 2010, in Face to Face, by Josh Hallett

One of my new favorite bloggers is Eric Dodds from Brains on Fire (bias, we work with Eric and Brains on Fire on projects). Eric is young, but don’t take that the wrong way. I interpret that as a different view/approach to many things. However, Eric has some great community management experience to temper his counsel.

When you have a chance check out some of his content:

- A Quick Thought on Purpose, Not Profit
- A Salute to Companies Sticking to Their Guns
- On combining online and offline: a story


Open Transitions

On August 18, 2010, in Learn by Doing, by Josh Hallett

carl smith

Major transitions in business are a difficult process. Evaluating who you are and what you do, and then shifting priorities is just tough. Longtime friend Carl Smith from nGenworks has recently been documenting their journey. If you’re going through a similar process, or planning it, his posts are great reading.

- Transparent Transition
- Transition Strategy Part 1: Who Do We Think We Are?
- Transition Strategy Part 2: Staying Focused
- Transition Strategy Part 3: Actually It Is Magic
- Transition Strategy Part 4: What’s the Big Difference?
- Transition Strategy Part 5: Crossroads

Photo from whatnot, via CC


Latest Lust Object: Tumi Carbon Fiber Luggage

On August 17, 2010, in Travel, by Josh Hallett

I travel quite a bit, so I have a thing for good, stylish luggage. Here’s the latest obsession, the new carbon fiber luggage Tumi has created for the Lexus LFA.

Tumi Carbon Fiber Luggage

Too bad you have to buy the car to get the bags. Perhaps Tumi will develop a new independent line based upon this look.


F.I.R.E. Sessions Redux

On August 17, 2010, in Conferences, by Josh Hallett

F.I.R.E. Sessions 2010 - Brains on Fire

Yes, I’m a bit late on this, but just wanted to post some thoughts on the F.I.R.E. Sessions 2010 held by my friends at Brains on Fire. I had been burned out on conferences….too many of the same conversations and it sounds bad to say, the same people. The F.I.R.E. Sessions were my first conference in a while and it was refreshing. Social media was not the theme for the day, instead it was some great talks and discussions about marketing, word of mouth and intersection of all these things with the realities of business.

Steve Knox from P&G’s WOM Unit Tremor treated the audience to some analytical discussions on what it truly takes to have impact and generate advocacy. Great stuff.

Lunch groups were also very diverse. Our table featured a lively discussion of old media vs. new media….with old media still coming to terms with the new reality.

For those of us from out of town the other big treat was spending time in Greenville, SC. I love that downtown area.

Here are all my photos from the event.

Other recaps of the event:

“We aren’t in Kansas anymore, we’re in Greenville. (Part 1)
F.I.R.E Sessions Recap Part 2 – Steve Knox on Trusted Advocacy and How It Will Change Marketing
FIRE Sessions Recap Part 3 – Max Lenderman and the Power of Experiential Marketing
FIRE Sessions photo roundup


There are very few ‘new’ ideas in social media. Chances are somebody has said it (and done it) before. The difference is applying those ideas to real business goals and of course execution. Otherwise it’s all talk.


Rich Buchanan

On August 16, 2010, in Face to Face, by Josh Hallett

Rich Buchanan

Like many in the industry, I was shocked to learn of the passing of Rich Buchanan. I worked with Rich for a period of time when he was at Ooma (Voce client). Great man…great loss.


Maximizing Value of Old Content

On July 12, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

We have short attention spans, and so much of what happens in social media is ‘in the moment’ – that leads to one of the long-term problems of social media; maximizing value of old content. A number of corporate blogs have been publishing for more than 3-4 years now and that is a great deal of old posts. With the shelf-life of a tweet lasting a few minute, imagine the challenge or drawing attention to a post from 3 years ago.

Sure many things are topical, but a great deal of content is still relevant, even a few years later. There is natural discovery via search, and that long tail of visitors streaming in via old content is of value, but how to get more?

Now we won’t go the way of the newspapers and charge for access to the archives, we want all the readers we can get for that archived content. That long-term value is something we work on daily with our clients. It’s a combination of smart content planning and promotion along with the right technology.
While it’s important to seize opportunities now and live ‘in the moment’ you also need to live in the past.

Cross-posted to Voce Nation.


Welcome Doug

On January 29, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

A bit late to the party on this (I was flying yesterday)…but welcome to Voce Mr. Haslam.


It’s time for Part Three (see Parts 1 and 2 for reference): Scaling.

Here’s the point I raised in Part 1: Building infrastructure to serve a large market is tough, just ask the telcos. The same goes for corporate interactions with customers.

This actually goes both ways. It’s tough for social media to scale up or down. One of the core principles of a social media program is listening and responding (or ‘conversation’ as the kids call it). Conversation takes resources, people and time…and if you’re a large brand using one of the monitoring tools it takes money. That’s not to say people and time aren’t money, they are.

For a corporation it’s about scaling up, putting more people on the job. For the small business it’s about scaling down, or carving out the time from your already busy day to spend time interacting online.

Let’s go big first. It’s simple math, the larger the corporation, the more time that needs to be spent if you’re moving down that road. Yes, the monitoring tools can do a good job of aggregating and sorting the discussions, but it still takes people to review and respond.

Scaling Up: Aligning Internal Resources

An additional issue with large-scale corporate social media programs is internal comms getting in the way of ‘conversation’. This builds upon the internal war problem I talked about before. Traversing internal business unit communications is tough, now try to go across business units.

There is the standard cliche that customers don’t care about your internal org chart. Externally they see you has Brand X and they expect you to act like a single entity, but as those involved in large-scale corporate work know that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Now some folks will get all preachy and say ‘this has got to change’ and pound their fists, but this is a reality and it’s going to take a while to fix…a long while.

Internal social media leaders continue to work to break down those barriers, rooting out contacts at different divisions to help answer questions, but once again it’s just something that will take a while to develop. As social media programs expand internally the external interactions will benefit, but head-count doesn’t appear overnight, think more along the lines of fiscal-year.

With all these issues, comms, budget, head-count it’s a slow process. What’s funny though is that it may take a while to get there, but once it’s there, folks seem to forget the past. Getting back to the telco analogy. I remember when Verizon put the first FiOS trunk in our neighborhood. It then seemed to take forever for the build out to complete. But eventually that build out was done and once the service started to flow, I forgot about the wait.

Now let’s go small. How do you shoe-horn social media into a small business? In some ways this is tougher, especially if you’re in a market that does not have a high adoption of social media/networks among users. Large brands benefit from their existing inertia. Social media can build upon audiences and communication channels already in place.

Scaling Down: Making it Manageable

A local civic organization recently approached me and asked what they should be doing online. I provided some counsel, but considering all the factors involved: budget, market, target audience, etc, I had a tough time really justifying a significant use of social media.

What has worked for them has been offline social media….or in other words actual human interactions via community events like chamber of commerce meetings. I’m hard-pressed to say abandon that and move online.

With small staffs and small budgets, smaller organizations often can’t provide the necessary planning and attention to run what could be a successful program.

The other major road block is measurement. They often don’t have adequate measurement of their existing marketing and communication efforts. Without benchmarks it’s difficult to say what is a better use or resources, attending a local civic function for one hour, or spending that hour interacting online.

Taking that a step further, if they have that one hour, how much of that time goes into measurement, probably not much? Measurement is always the first thing to get cut.

Success stories with small businesses using social media usually involve an interesting product or novel idea (think Kogi). How do you bring that same excitement to fund-raising for a local medical clinic? It’s tough.

Whether you’re trying to scale up or down, there is no magic bullet or plan. It’s always a unique process that needs to build upon the strengths and weaknesses of the organization (small or large). Having experience always helps. Of course you can’t just replicate a plan from one org to another, but you can learn from what has worked and not worked in similar situations.

Next time you hear somebody say, “You should listen to your customers, and have conversations with them.” at a conference, remember it’s not as easy as it sounds.


Transparency is BS – Long Live Transparency

On January 20, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

If you’ve known me for a while you’ll have heard me say that ‘transparency’ is BS, a fallacy. Organizations and individuals will try to be transparent, but only up till a point. If you’re all about transparency, come to Florida and work in local government for a year or two.

My feelings are influenced by the open records laws in Florida, aka the Sunshine Law. In basic form (yes I’m oversimplifying quite a bit), communications and meetings between public officials is public record.

That’s transparency.

Looking for an example of this? Look at today’s news about Legoland in Florida. The news breaks because of an e-mail sent to the local county commission….and yep, you guessed it, that’s public record. Cat’s out of the bag.

You might say, keep it out of e-mail, and you’re probably right. However, if you wanted to meet with a few of the commissioners and tell them the news in person, you’d have to file public notice of said meeting….to keep it in the Sunshine :-)

The Sunshine Law has been a long-running issue, especially when corporations are looking to expand to Florida and are interested in tax breaks or other incentives. These discussions need to involve public officials from time to time. The corporation may be ‘thinking’ of moving, but of course they don’t want that news getting out as they explore their options.

Transparency or the ‘effort’ can cut both ways. Next time you think you’re being transparent in your communications efforts, think…how about we release all our e-mails? Didn’t think so.

Oh yeah, we’re getting a Legoland in our hometwon…like 5 minutes from my house. Woot!


Lakeland Local and Sticks of Fire in MediaShift

On January 15, 2010, in Media, by Josh Hallett

Chuck Welch and Tommy Duncan are both quoted in a recent MediaShift post: Local Bloggers Step Up to Watchdog Local Government.

Well done gentlemen.


It’s time for Part Two (see Parts 1 and 3 for reference): The Internal War.

In the first part of this thread I tried to set the stage and lay out some problems that arise with social media in organizations when it becomes that ‘last mile’. Now, let’s move on to those problems.

First up is the internal war. This is what I originally said: 1. Jealousy from the existing marketing teams towards the ‘new’ social media team. This results in internal political battles that cripple both sides.

In his recent WordCamp Atlanta talk, Dave Coustan had a slide that talked about the agency feeding frenzy associated with content-related programs. (It’s slide 11 for those scoring at home).

Agency Feeding Frenzy

You can take that same slide and replace the outer ring with internal divisions. In fact I just did that :-)

An Internal Feeding Frenzy

This is something that happens in organizations, the internal battle over who manages social media.
Well-run social media programs with good measurement quickly show their value, and with that value comes increased budget and internal power. It’s a good place to be, if you’re on the right team.

In most cases one division leads the charge and establishes the high ground (keeping with the ‘war’ metaphor). Sometimes the other divisions will work in partnership or relinquish control, which makes everything much smoother.

However, sometimes the battle rages on. If a truce is not reached the social media strategy becomes fragmented. Business units create their own plans and associated accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Multiply this by a number of divisions and you have a number of things happening:

1. Duplication of Efforts: This is a duplication of budget, staff resources you name it. There is always some in-efficiency within large organizations, but this duplication starts to have a trickle-down effect….which leads to #2.

2. Confusion for the User: With a number of different channels on Twitter/Facebook/etc which one do they ask a question of? Guess what, without a clear definition of what and who the channels are for, they often ask all of them. Now you have three or four different teams interacting with one customer, that’s not very efficient.

3. Mapping Back to Core Goals: Do all the different social media efforts map back to the core goals of the corporation? If not, why are you doing it? Yes community can be good, but it has to have a purpose.

4. Screw Ups: Are all the individuals managing these various programs adhering to best practices and ethical conduct? What may be a no-no for PR might be standard practice for the promotions department. As we know, social media communities have their own rules, and screw-ups tend to generate negative publicity (read: You had an intern doing what?). A mistake by one division will cast a shadow over an entire program.

5. Can You Support It?: Social media programs take a significant commitment, can every division do that? Often divisions that want a piece of the social media pie have an ‘idea’ or ‘campaign’ in mind. This may last for a few weeks or months, but after that where does it go? Why spend time building a community just to let it go?

6. How Do You Measure it?: With each different division doing different things on social networks is there a consistent measurement methodology in place? Can the measures be easily rolled-up into a overall program reach report? Measurement takes time and this goes back to #1, if you have five groups doing their own thing, then you have five staff members working on measurement in different ways. That’s dumb.

All of this points to the need for internal governance and planning. Multiple presences on social networks is not a bad thing if it’s planned and coordinated. In fact a distributed program can be very powerful. The ability to tailor content for specific channels while not overlapping is what social media is all about.

The internal battles will rage on, hopefully though the customer will no longer be collateral damage.
Part 3 coming in a bit.

(Cross posted to Voce Nation)


Social Media is the ‘Last Mile’ – Part 1

On January 13, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

If you’ve ever worked in or with the telco field you’ll know what the last mile is. It’s that final connection to the customer’s home. For decades it was the crucial component in the telco business model, and it still is…it’s just that there are now more options. You can draw a number of comparisons with social media.

For many brands social media is now a ‘last mile’, that final connection with the customer.

Let’s look back first though. Large monopolistic telecom providers built and controlled the last mile. The ‘one’ phone company and the ‘one’ cable company. However, these providers spent billions of dollars building out that infrastructure, in fact they had to in order to maintain their franchise rights.

Then along come all the new providers, looking to piggy-back or build alternative last mile solutions.

Except they don’t have to serve everyone and don’t have to build out vast/costly infrastructure. They can pass these cost savings along and provide lower costs and often better options to the consumer. No wonder telecoms are always in such a bitter mood :-)

Compare that with the traditional media, specifically print media. They spend decades developing infrastructure, reporting staff, delivery routes all to serve ‘everyone’ in a market. Now, new channels exist that bypass this and many times work to serve only a portion of the market. They can operate at lower cost and at lightning speed. No wonder newspapers are always in such a bitter mood :-)

Finally, let’s look at a corporation. For decades they have built a marketing and sales infrastructure. These infrastructures slowly evolve over time, hopefully learning from their mistakes. Social media is changing that.

For consumer product manufacturers, often the ‘last mile’ is the retailer. Here you are as a business, building the best products you possibly can, and in the end you need to turn over the final customer interaction to a retailer. (insert joke about pimply 16-year-old salesperson here). Often that leaves the only customer interaction to be customer service. In other words, you’d only talk to the customer when your product wasn’t working. That’s not a healthy way to start any relationship.

Change has been happening slowly though. Remember the early e-commerce revolts when manufacturers had the gall to sell their products directly online, thus bypassing the retailer? It’s a common occurrence now, but a decade ago it was a big deal…and still is as many media companies switch to digital delivery of content. Ah, digital content delivery, that brings us back to the last mile, literally.

The opportunity of social media to provide that ‘last mile’ connection is also the challenge. It upsets many of the existing infrastructures both internally and externally within a corporation and that has consequences. In the next part of this post I’m going to look at a few things based upon the ‘last mile’.

2. Jealousy from the existing marketing teams towards the ‘new’ social media team. This results in internal political battles that cripple both sides.

3. Building infrastructure to serve a large market is tough, just ask the telcos. The same goes for corporate interactions with customers.

4. It does take integration. Social media is often able to capitalize on the groundwork set out from advertising, PR, etc.

5. ROI calculations get messy. Sure, that final click to buy may have come from a Tweet, but does social media deserve all the credit?

6. Customer service via Twitter is great, but are you providing a better class of service to online users?

7. Social media can’t serve your entire customer base, is that a good or bad thing?

(Cross posted to Voce Nation)


Sorry, We Work in Different Industries

On January 13, 2010, in Social Media, by Josh Hallett

With any client account work there is a daily grind. It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the day-to-day things that need to get done. In addition to the daily tasks there are always new questions, new ideas and new discussions along with the occasional crisis.

The common thread through all of this is availability. You and your team need to be available to the client.

Colleagues from different agencies who run programs all know about this. Client demands can come at any time…and often seem to come when you’re not available. How many times have you stepped off an airplane and read ‘that’ e-mail?

I look at the ‘social media experts’ that seem to go from conference to conference, party to party and I think, “Sorry we work in different industries.”

It’s extremely difficult to provide a high level of service when you’re all over the place. I can speak from experience on this. It’s tough.

I used to speak a great deal but I don’t that much anymore…why? Client service. With each speaking invitation I need to weigh travel time, how long will I be out? Will I be offline for extended periods of time?

In the end client responsibilities will always win out.