How To Use A Blog Hiatus Effectively

cold-blue-bean

I have been taking a short break from my regular blogging schedule, but I've been very busy all the same. I wanted to share what I've been working on with you.

This is how I've used my short blog hiatus effectively:

  • Healthy body, healthy mind: First, I resumed my gym workout schedule. I stopped staying up for Colbert and ate better before bed. I even read my first fiction book since I started the blog. This helped me refresh my focus and renew my body so that I was primed for future tasks.
  • Get organized: My desk was strewn with papers and I trashed most of them. I removed virtual clutter as well, erasing all new Twitter followers notifications. I stopped anything that was close to overflowing and I erased anything that had already overflowed. That done, I wrote out two lists: Goals for my blog and a to-do list. Of course, these work in tandem. The goals page is an on-going list of high-level hopes for the blog and rough strategies for reaching them. The to-do list is a much more immediate list of tactics I can accomplish quickly.
  • Preparation is half the battle: During my blog hiatus I created two new Google documents: one to log new blog post ideas and another to record a blog reading list. The new ideas doc serves as my virtual notepad - I can save any ideas there for later when I have more time to write. The reading list represents a fundamental change in my reading habits. I intend to focus on marketing/business/social media bloggers who have roughly my audience and posting frequency. Keeping up with the Brogans and Godins of the world is simply too time-consuming and my odds of actually interacting with them or creating a dialogue is slim to nil.
  • Cleaner layout: As you may know, I use the center column of the blog for ads and the right column for connection opportunities (mostly other ways to find me online). I cleaned out the ad column, eliminating two large Google ad spaces. They earned only pennies, added confusion to the page, and were the least relevant ads. Now, I only feature MarketingSherpa reports (of which I'm a fan) and my personal Amazon book recommendations. In addition, I simplified the right-hand column, prioritizing the more important interactions (subscriptions, Twitter) and de-emphasizing the less important ones (Facebook, Odiogo).
  • Saving e-books: I also opened up a Slideshare account. This saves all of my e-books in one place - convenient for both this blog's readers and me.
  • Getting to know you: Arguably the most important task I've completed thus far is releasing the first OnlineMarketerBlog survey. I will be sharing the results with you hopefully later this week. I say this has been the most important because 1) this blog wouldn't be anything without its readers and 2) getting your input has been invaluable. Thanks to everyone who completed this survey! (There's still time to complete it - jump straight to the survey by clicking here. But take it by Wednesday if you want your answers to be included in the blog post announcing the results.)

I intend for these changes to make this blog more helpful to you. But is there anything I've missed? What other things would you recommend bloggers do during periodic breaks?

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Super Bowl 2009 Ads - Social Media Engagement In The First Half

family-watching-television

$3M for a 30-second ad?

Sure it's crazy, but unlike in years past, advertisers have the opportunity to make that $3M work for them long after Super Bowl memories have faded.

First, there's the initial press. TNS Media reports that Super Bowl advertising has huge holding power. Data shows that people do wait to see the commercials all the way through the game. Then for a few days after, you get tons of online conversation swirling around your brand. (TNS was also able to rank the total media coverage last year - it will be interesting to see if these 10 brands lead the pack in terms of social media integration this year.)

But, for all its holding power, the Super Bowl is over within a few hours. How do advertisers get their money's worth? How do consumers create dialogue with select brands?

Getting The Most For $3M

Of course, the real way to really get the most for that $3M is to engage your customer. I mentioned previously some of the ways to engage your audience online and I've been tracking these attributes during the game. Here is what I have been watching for:

  • Pre-game engagement: Could customers submit their own ads in hopes of having it shown? Was there any aspect of user-generated content (UGC)? Did the brand allow customers to vote on which ad was shown?
  • During-game engagement: Was a URL displayed during the ad to drive traffic and attention to the brand? Where there opportunities for real-time interaction? Were customers encouraged to vote or otherwise voice their opinion?
  • Post-game engagement: Were there opportunities to engage the audience after the game? Could customers join a social network? Could they sign up for a newsletter featuring advance product information?

The Run-Down

Here's my list for the first half of Super Bowl 2009:

Second Quarter:

  • Land of The Lost (Movie Trailer): URL (LandOfTheLost.net)
  • Doritos (Power of crunch): UGC (Crash the Super Bowl)
  • GoDaddy (Danica): URL, commercial continued online (GoDaddy.com)
  • Pepsi Max ("I'm good"): URL (RefreshEverything.com)
  • Pedigree (Get a dog): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse brings branch): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse love) - 60 secs.: No engagement
  • Star Trek (Movie trailer): URL (StarTrekMovie.com)
  • Gatorade (Mission G): URL (MissionG.com)
  • Cars.com (Confidence): No engagement in commercial, but ad protagonist does have Facebook page
  • Hyundai Genesis (Yelling):
  • eTrade (Babies): URL (eTrade.com)
  • [Good call-out to NBC.com and Hulu]
  • Pixar (Up): URL, Verbal ask to go to Disney.com
  • Bud Light (Chalkoard): No engagement
  • H&R Block (Death): URL (HRBlock.com)
  • Teleflora (Talking flowers): URL (Teleflora.com)
  • Cheetos (Pigeons): URL with prominent written call-out (Cheetos.com)
  • Monsters Vs. Aliens (Movie trailer): URL (MonstersVsAliens.com)
  • Sobe (3-D dancing lizards): No URL, but bought Google ads against Monster vs. Aliens and sending traffic to branded Sobe YouTube channel (hat-tip @Scorecard)

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave comments below if I left anything out or misreported on an ad. If you'd like to follow along in real time, you can find me at @MarketerBlog. I will post the second half's analysis directly after the game.

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What A Handful Of Pepper Has To Do With Your Social Media Strategy

ground-pepper

Let me tell you a story about what a handful of pepper has to do with your social media strategy:

BG has two nieces who I absolutely adore, aged 2 years and 8 months. I know everyone says this, but my future nieces are really just about the smartest and most cherubic children I've ever seen.

BG and I were over for dinner last week and BG's sister was preparing the meal. The 2-year old (TYO) was standing on a chair helping her Mommy in the kitchen. This is when things got interesting.

BG and I look over and TYO was standing on the chair agog but motionless. Is she choking? Is anything wrong? "TYO, what's wrong?"

It turns out that TYO had seen the ground pepper contain on the counter and gotten a particular thought in her head. I imagine it went something like, "Things I put in my mouth around BG and Mommy and Uncle DJ are usually tasty - how bad could a big handful of this black, flakey stuff be?"  So she palmed a large handful of ground pepper and sent it down the hatch!

What Does This Have To Do With My Social Media Strategy?

It's early 2009 and many of you are planning your social media strategy for the year. Maybe you've planned out a blog or started a Twitter account. You have subscriptions to Chris Brogan and Joseph Jaffe, and you think everything is gonna go great.

It occurred to me last week that you are, in a way, similar to TYP contemplating her clenched fist. You are about to embark on a new and exciting journey, venture into unknown territory. What's in your hand? Is it ground pepper or M&Ms?

Personally, I hope to grit your teeth and swallow whatever it is wholeheartedly. I've said it before: Social media is not for cowards. I hope you go for the gusto with your social media strategy.

But Wait, It Was Freakin' Pepper!

Sure, for TYO, it was a handful of pepper, but that's not important. Maybe you'll get M&Ms, who knows? But you're looking down at your closed fist of social media and thinking, "This is going down my gullet right now."

Hey, you know what? You might fail. Like, really fail. Like, face-plant at the skatepark, fail. Like suck down ground pepper like hot coals, holy hell, I cannot believe that just happened, I think I'm gonna die, damn that hurts pain.

And you won't be alone. A lot of people will fail at social media this year. Honestly, that's not terribly important.

What is important is that you learn from it. In fact, I think you'll learn more if it turns out to be pepper in your hand.

I've said before that failure is not fatal and it's true. If you would have looked into the eyes of TYO the moment after it happened, you'd know that more important lessons were being learned - lessons about avoiding future missteps, about learning from mistakes, about what it means to not only learn from a bad experience but to change your behavior in a positive way because of it.

Like Nike Says...

With this new year still fresh, I hope you're contemplating bold moves. And while I hope you succeed, I hope that you learn from any failure you may experience. The weak will give up. They will swallow the pepper and run the other direction. My hope for your 2009 social media plan is that, if you should find yourself chewing back a mouthful of blisteringly hot pepper, that you take it and learn from the experience.

Anyone can experience pain, but if you want to succeed, you will learn from it. Maybe your pepper is a scathing article. Maybe it's a demoralized boss. Maybe it'll be your own stupid actions (I've been there, believe me).

Take it from TYO: everyone takes down their share of ground pepper. It's what you do with it that's important. I hope you turn your pepper into M&Ms. I know it's possible - I see it everyday.

Epilogue:

After TYO swallowed the pepper, an emergency glass of water and many kisses were deployed. I'm thankful to say no one was harmed in the incident and I think everyone learned something from the experience. That said, it was a pleasure to see TYO indulge her curiousity. I wonder what a handful of ground pepper would taste like to me...

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A New Business Model For A New Era

businessmen

I think Mitch Joel is one of the brightest minds in social media. But today, I've gotta take issue.

Mitch recently responded to a new Pew Research Center poll showing that television has been overtaken by the internet as a primary news source. I highly encourage you to read Mitch's thoughts here: Breaking News On The Internet. His concern is that new media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) has overtaken traditional media too quickly for a replacement advertising model to be accepted. After all, who is going to pay for all of the content online?

Now, I almost always think Mitch is right on target. But his recent post harbors some assumptions that I've been hearing more and more often from a lot of sources, but which I think are detrimental to social media marketing in its current incarnation.

In other words, it's not just Mitch - we all need to be careful about how we consider social media and how it relates to a business model.

Here are 4 assumptions I hear in the marketing community that need a good debunking:

  1. Traditional media and new media are selling the same thing: It's simply not true, so let's not talk about the two systems as though they were. TV and radio were made to sell ads; the internet is advice and expertise. Rick at eyecube said it well: "Television isn’t a medium for telling stories and disseminating information, it’s a medium for selling ads. As such, the goal is not to produce quality programming, the goal is to produce programming that will attract the most eyeballs." He goes on to make salient points about the quality that results as such, but my point is to take caution when comparing apples to oranges.
  2. The old business models were correct: Sure, advertising worked, but that didn't mean it was good. As long as a terrible product brought eyeballs or cash with them, do you really think the fat cats cared? In the old business model, marketers were shills. But now, good products tend to succeed and bad products tend to fail (and at a faster rate too). The old model sold people Ford Pintos. Now, we recommend Amazon.com to our friends. Who would want to return to the old model?
  3. Advertising is the only business model: The most surprising aspect of Mitch's post is that advertising is the only business model mentioned. There's no talk of a donation model (open source software), a merchandise model (Toothpaste For Dinner), a gimmick model (woot.com), a subscription model (The Bitterest Pill podcast), a community outreach model (Lululemon), a recommendation model (Zappos), or any other type of business model. None of these companies engages in advertising on a large scale (if at all), yet they are all very healthy businesses.
  4. The lack of a business model is a bad thing: Why? Unlike TV and radio, the content is already great. Mitch kind of admits this in both the Pew post and one from a few days earlier, named Bad TV, respectively:

    “Any idea how long it took channels like newspapers, radio and television to optimize their product to make it so appealing to advertisers? Most advertising professionals would argue that all of these channels are still working at it.”

    "[T]here is so much good content on the Internet that it is overwhelming. Where both [a DVR and an online news reader] enable you to avoid a lot of the noise, the Internet just has way too much relevant and good content - no matter what your varying interests may be."

    In other words, the hard part has been done: good content is everywhere! That's great! People find new ways to make a buck everyday online, so don't worry about it - the hard part is creating good content and cultivating an interested community.

Mitch says the internet is growing too fast - for whom exactly? Obviously not the viewing public, especially the young, if you read the Pew survey results. Obviously not us social media early adopters. So who? The suits? The record labels and the movie studios? Everyone else who tries to make a buck off of the content producer? Hey, screw 'em.

Out Of Whose Wallet?

Despite the assumptions I drew from Mitch's post, his main point is this: Who is going to pay for all of the content we consume online?

It's a valid question. Of course, good content has a price tag. But I think we've gotten too used to advertising paying for everything and it's turned advertisers into editors. That mentality won't work in this new era.

And Mitch and others get this, I think. In a post on Christmas Day, he wrote about a potential journalistic endeavor: "Hustling for banner ads is not going to generate the revenue that you were hoping for, and by focusing on this - instead of the quality and relevance of the content - it is only going to cause you to be distracted."

So let's not get distracted because of the business model. Tell business owners and old-school marketers this for now: Provide content, then build trust, then rake in new business. It's uber-simplified, but that's how you provide content at a profit.

This Isn't Personal

I count 10 blog posts in the last year alone where I had nothing but glowing things to say about Mitch. He and other new media folks are providing a light in the darkness to millions.

My concern is only that we keep moving. Sure, let's talk about business models and figure out how we can all provide the most use for our clients and make an honest buck doing it. But let's do it in a spirit that fits the new era, one where we don't get tripped up comparing things to how they were in the past.

Why? Because we're in a freakin' awesome point in time! Social media marketing is creating more honesty, value, and conversation - and I suspect that both Mitch and I would agree that's a wonderful thing.

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My 2009 Blogging Resolution: More Providing, Less Promoting

I disappointed myself last week.

It was as simple as a reminder in my Outlook: "Check this out and do the usual." I was referring to The Shorty Awards, another vaguely worded contest to feature the world's "Top Twitterers." It was just one more made up PR stunt where I hoped to get some traction and gain a few eyeballs for this blog.

Luckily, local Chicago folks offered a reality check. @Tankboy and @me3dia weighed in, but @BlahGeeTsa put it best by questioning whether Twitter had turned into a high school popularity contest with The Shorty Awards as a prominent culprit.

It's Not The Shorties, It's Me

So why was I disappointed in myself?

It wasn't really about The Shorty Awards, but rather my reaction to them. I didn't question them, didn't investigate, didn't consider why my blog readers would care - I simply went into promotion mode.

That's a tough mindset to break out of. Marketing your marketing blog is de rigueur. You're required to demonstrate your theories while you talk about them. It's akin to giving juggling lessons while keeping all of your own balls in the air.

The danger, of course, is if you start to do these things without thinking. The way I'd begun to flock to every promotional opportunity was similar to the way other people artificially increase their friend count on social networks. It's like an insulation against obscurity.

And of course, this is dangerous and unnecessary. From Scott Brown in November's WIRED: "We squirrel away Friends the way our grand-parents used to save nickels - obsessively, desperately, as if we'll run out of them some day." For me, running blindly toward every marketing opportunity to show off my web 2.0 chops actually hurts the case I'm trying to make about new marketing!

My Resolution

I'm not bad-mouthing The Shorty Awards. If that's your thing, knock yourself out.

Even those who seek to build "Friends" lists as a means to have a bigger audience to pray 'n' spray their marketing message - I find it inane, but I won't say much.

Rather, I'm going to focus on providing better content, helping more people, and showing true leadership. In 2009, I will worry less about my stats or my rank on Technorati and the Power 150.

I would love to see us move more toward Intimacy 2.0, as defined by Mitch Joel:

"Maybe true success in these online social circles will not involve metrics like amount of connections or how many times something happened, but rather how powerful and poignant something is to the specific target market."

And my target market is you, the readers I appreciate so, so much. Here what you can do for me in return: keep me honest. If you see me veering into hubris or promoting without providing, I want you to call me on it. Immediately.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here soon.

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5 New Social Media Jobs You Will Fill In The Next 5 Years

Social media has already changed business profoundly. If yours hasn't, you are already behind the curve. If you have customers, their expectations regarding how they interact with businesses has likely already shifted dramatically.

So how will you deal with these changes in your business? They will surely impact marketing and legal, perhaps even I.T. But what else is on the horizon?

This is my list of five employees you might hire in the next five years (and whose positions didn't exist five years ago). Part of this equation depends on how big you are and how ingrained social media becomes in your business. Another aspect is your company's size - smaller companies may likely combine aspects of these jobs.

That said, it's likely that someone will need to fill the following positions in some way. How are you preparing?

  1. International Community Compliance Chief: Facebook and MySpace may be dominant in the U.S., but how much attention are you paying to social networks in other countries? Do you have a presence on Korea's Cyworld, Orkut (huge in Brazil), Mixi in Japan, Bebo in the UK, or Grono in Poland? Someone in your company needs to claim the company name on all of these sites, oversee even moderate design, set up unique referral links, and ensure that all of these efforts match your company's over-arching strategy. (Thanks to Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing for these examples, roughly on pages 101-106.)
  2. Community Manager: People are talking about your brand. If they do it within the auspices of the company, in a sanctioned forum, message board, or internal blog, you will need a community manager. This employee needs to both ensure (through personal interaction) that the community is a valuable assets without spammers or flamers (definition #1) and they need to set up the internal documentation with which you regulate employee interaction. These people are the face of your brand to the outside world and the customer ambassador to internal staff.
  3. Online Reputation Manager: While the community manager has a public presence and is sanctioned to act, an online reputation manager is wider-reaching in their scope, but largely hidden from public view. This is the person you turn to when you need to know which online influencers are talking about your brand. They need to have a comprehensive view of your competitors' online reputation. They need to identify openings in the market or current customers' requests. The online reputation manager is the spy agency (within reason) for your company.
  4. Blogger Outreach Manager/Blog Cultivation Expert: A lot has been said about the right way to approach bloggers and the wrong way to approach bloggers. Do you have an expert on your staff who already has relationships with bloggers in your industry? Everyone needs good PR or the occasional digg/stumble/sphinn/[insert goofy web 2.0 term of the day]. "[Bloggers] are a potentially significant new constituency for public relations efforts, and they are the engine that drives successful viral marketing promotions" (Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing, again.) Let the blogger outreach manager cultivate like-minded souls online and advise you to the up-and-comers. Allow this individual to build relationships with them now before you need their help.
  5. Chief Conversation Officer: This is the big kahuna of social media leadership in your company. The Chief Conversation Officer is an amalgamation of many of the roles described above. However, the CCO reports directly to the top and it is a soup-to-nuts position: they are responsible for finding the online conversation, documenting it, sharing it, analyzing it, and ultimately joining in on the conversation (in a non-creepy, non-"marketese" kind of way). Here are more details about the Chief Conversation Officer position.

How are you preparing for the influx of social media into your business? Are you cultivating leaders within your organization to help? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.

(Image courtesy of preciouskhyatt via Flickr)

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Customer Altruism: A Complaint Really Is A Gift

It is against our nature to respond receptively to complaints. At their base, complaints are alerts that we (or our business) are unsatisfactory and often are requests to change our behavior.

People usually don't like being told how bad they suck.

But in business you have a responsibility to please your customers. In this effort, you may do market research, put out surveys, or request exit interviews. But what if you could hear all of feedback without paying for it?

Complaining is the customer's way of giving feedback. It's often difficult to hear about areas that need improving, but complaints can easily change your business for the better.

In this post, I will prove that customer complaints usually emanate from an altruistic place, that their feedback is immensely important to your business, and offer ways that complaints can be turned into a wonderful gift.

It's like lotto: you have to be in it to win it

The first step to turning a complaint into a gift is the ability to listen. Listening to your customers is really online reputation management. The good thing is that your customers are already talking about your business. From Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink:

"You also might find that customers are already telling you what they want on forums or blogs, web site feedback forms or call center agent logs - if you'll take the time to read them. Text mining is becoming a more commonplace way to learn what customers are saying when the volume becomes too high to handle manually."

Power to the people

We also know from Groundswell (my must-read book of 2008) that a full quarter of U.S. adults leave reviews online. And why are customers giving this feedback? Believe it or not, but it's usually because they want to help.

A recent Bavaarvoice survey shows that 73% of respondents say they write online reviews of products because they want to help companies improve the products they build and carry (per MarketingVox). Your customers who review your products online (one feedback/complaint mechanism) are mostly motivated by altruism.

Another reason not to ignore this feedback is because it's likely true. ComScore reports that "[n]inety-seven percent of those surveyed who said they made a purchase based on an online review said they found the review to have been accurate." ComScore also reports that customers trust each other more than you, the professional.

A plan of action

So we know that customer reviews are accurate and trusted. We also know that they give you feedback or complain because, in the end, they want to help you improve. So how can you leverage this feedback?

Psychotactics recommends the following:

  1. Get face to face and let your customers know who to complain to.
  2. Listen to customer's precise complaints, fix them, and then don't forget to woo them back.
  3. Complainers can frequently be turned into the most vocal advocates, if handled properly.
  4. It costs 8 times as much to get a new customer than to retain one your already have. 'Nuff said.
  5. The customer is always right.

What this and other sources agree upon is that customer feedback is incredibly rich information. Your employees need to cultivate this feedback and they need to know that upper management encourages listening and reacting based on customer feedback.

Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller effectively wrote the manual on this process in their book, A Complaint Is A Gift. They write about integrating this into your process:

"Treating complaints as feedback from a most valuable asset, customers, helps create a customer-focused culture...Service recovery takes care of customer, makes them whole, and ensures that the organization lives up to its service promise. Customer complaints provide the information to improve the organization's quality" (page 71).

Have you created a business culture where complaints are valued and acted upon? How have you improved your business through feedback from your customers? Please feel free to leave suggestions and lessons learned in the comments section below.

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No One Cares, You Are Doing It Wrong, And That Is Awesome

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr Marketers are confused these days. The things that have worked for decades aren't working anymore. Can you imagine if you worked for 30 years in your given vocation and then, almost over night, all the rules changed?

In truth, marketing is only now becoming what it truly should have been - a conversation. Less lies, less spin. Marketers have been shoveling marshmallow fluff down the mouths of Americans and telling them it's broccoli. And suddenly, as quick as you can confuse metaphors, we find that the emperor has no clothes.

I admit I've been frustrated with the old-school marketers. "What is with these guys, and why can't they get it together?" But that's not fair. Their whole world has shifted beneath them. I came to a better understanding watching a recent Robert Scoble interview with IBM engineer Mike Moran. (I highly encourage you to check it out: Robert Scoble's interview with Mike Moran. It's only 12 minutes long and well worth your time.)

Moran gives a cogent explanation of why marketers are having such a difficult time in the new web 2.0 environment. Here is a small sample:

"The change that's really happening is you have to learn how to attract people to your message rather than pushing it at them. You have to figure out how you're going to listen when they talk back. And you also have to watch what they do. Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond.

Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond. When I say 'Do it wrong quickly,' it's not you trying to do it wrong, it's that you kind of admit that what you're doing is probably wrong because it usually is. And then you have to look back at the feedback from your target market to see how far off it is so that you know what to do next. And that's really a tough change for a lot of marketers.

That seems really simple, but think of it: a whole industry has changed in a matter of what, less than a decade? That is pretty outstanding. It's going from monologue to dialogue, from lecture to conversation, from directing to caring, from crossed fingers to metrics.

Likewise, David Meerman Scott had this to say a couple of weeks ago at Podcamp Boston 3 on an edition of the Marketing Over Coffee podcast:

You truly have to think differently than you ever have before, if you've been a marketer or PR person throughout your whole career. So many people have an idea of what marketing and public relations is. Marketing is typically advertising and you interrupt people and you coerce them to do something. And PR is you convince a handful of journalists to talk about your stuff.

Everything we're talking about here [at Podcamp Boston 3] is about creating something interesting that doesn't talk about your product and service - no one cares about your product and service - but gets an idea across."

All of this then reminded me of an excellent post by Josh Klein. (You really ought to subscribe to his blog. Seriously.) He was speaking about roughly the same topic, with a special focus on television. And Josh nails it when he talks about how things have changed with the internet.

"The internet wasn’t built for businesses, it was built to share information, first for the military and later for academics. Business has grown out of this original purpose, but it wasn’t the intention...

The web is not a passive medium. It’s built for engagement.

Why do companies insist on putting up brochureware websites, then wonder why nobody is visiting? Who gave them the right to take up valuable cognitive space without providing anything of value? This brings us back to the line that got axed from my presentation.

'Nobody cares about you.'"

Do you see how these three quotes all fit together into a meme? Moran says everything has changed and failure is good. Scott says you must create instead of interrupt. And Klein says this medium is built for engagement and, to engage, you must focus on the desires of the customer (not yourself or your company).

No one cares about your product, you're doing it wrong, and that is awesome.

No wonder this scares the pants off the old-school marketers - I don't blame them! Everything went topsy-turvy all of a sudden. A type of newspeak has become the norm (i.e. sell by not selling, convince by entertaining, fail to succeed).

Researching all of this has made me a little more understanding; it has made the hand-holding necessary in our industry a little more tolerable. I encourage you - whatever your age or experience - to consider the great shift in marketing when you deal with the old-school folks.

Do you think I'm correct or am I totally off base? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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Book Review: Toy Box Leadership

TBL1 I was recently asked by co-author Michael Waddell to review Toy Box Leadership. This new book is definitely worth picking up and I will explain why. (This post contains no affiliate links and I received no compensation of any kind except for a free review copy of the book.)

The premise of the book by Waddell and Ron Hunter, Jr., is that childhood toys taught or exemplified many of the skills necessary to lead well. Some examples are direct correlations (a rocking horse describing lots of work without actually achieving anything) and others are more figurative (LEGOs describing relationships that start with connecting).

Seriously? Toys And Leadership?

The connection between childhood toys and leadership lesson fluctuates from poignant to cheesy to fondly familiar. But the important thing to remember is that this is not the point. The connection between the toy and the particular lesson is secondary to your ability to absorb and recall the idea.

The toys simply provide an easily recognized and easily remembered framework of leadership strategy. The metaphors are certainly stronger than, say, a purple cow or square apple.

Let's Just Say It

We need to own up to a basic fact: every book on leadership will contain some similar fundamental truths. Communicating goals to your employees, for instance, will universally be a positive thing while emotional rages around the office will be regarded as uncouth. Stating this universality is not a knock on this or any other business book - it simply is.

If we admit to some similarity, then one of the differentiators becomes the book's ability to be memorable and to find a place in the reader's life. This is ultimately what makes Toy Box Leadership successful. Toys fit with the intended audience (Lite-Brites rather than Xbox 360s) and flow smoothly into the each particular subject on leadership.

The Importance Of Before And After

Toy Box Leadership ties together common memories from the past and transitions them to fit a future scenario. This smooth flow makes it perfect reading for your summer vacation if you need something a little meatier than the standard fare. Or, sample a tasty nugget from the book before and after work on your commute. The book works equally well taken in all at once or in sections each day.

In A Web 2.0 World

Many of the lessons in the book are amplified or especially relevant in this web 2.0 world. For instance:

  • Reliability and trust of your workers when more and more employees are telecommuting (pg. 10)
  • Emphasis on customer service and businesses' focus on personal interaction with customers (pg. 114)
  • Flatter organizational charts (pg. 131)

The effectiveness of the book's advice is proved by the examples that have surfaced since it went to print. "Shortcuts and efficiency are not synonymous. Likewise, some streamlining may actually reduce the quality that defines your organization or product" (pg. 114). Hunter and Waddell use the positive example of Nordstrom's customer experience, but this passage could easily be applied to Starbuck's turmoil in recent weeks.

The Gist

I thought this book was great and I recommend that you pick it up. It wasn't the heaviest read and there were no ground-breaking insights, but I do not think the authors set out with these goals in mind. Rather, it appears their intent was to relate useful leadership advice with memorable icons from your past. And in this, they succeed.

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