The free ride in social media is coming to an end

As Twitter continues to edge towards more of a business model that will offer something close to a premium level offering, something else caught my eye this week and it was this…

Ning announced that it was doing away with its free product and forcing its existing free networks to either make the change to premium accounts or migrate their networks elsewhere. They also announced that the company has cut almost 70 people —accounting for over 40% of its staff.

In case you don’t know what Ning is:  It’s a service that allows people to join and create social networks. Ning currently has more than 1.9 million Ning Networks created and 40 million registered users.

About 6 months ago, I mentioned on a panel that the free ride of social media had to end at some point. People need to make money with this social media stuff and hopefully it is not a model based on traffic/advertisers.

This is only the beginning.

When employees don’t care about customer service…

So I had a nearly catastrophic event happen today. If it were not for me trusting my gut it would have ended badly.

Let me tell the story.

I had to meet a client at a local restaurant in Naples, Florida. I had a lot of things with me that I had to hand off to them and thus was a tad bit harried. Plus the fact that I was running late for another appointment meant that the normal focus was not there. Keep in mind the word focus.

I met the client for a half hour then dashed off to the other meeting and finally made it back to the office at 4pm. As I was unloading, I noticed that I was missing my thumbdrive.  On this thumbdrive is everything. Now granted I do have copies of everything on the thumbdrive, it’s just spread over 2 machines and 2 external drives-so that little 3 inch long, black USB drive is my one stop shop for docs and what not. It’s vital.

It was missing and panic set in.

I backtracked and concluded that it had to be at the restaurant, so I decided to call them. Here’s how it went down.

Me: Hi I was wondering if you could do me a favor…I…

Them: Hold please

Me..Ok

5 minutes later

Them: Hello? (In a thick foreign voice)

Me: Hi was wondering if you or someone there could do me a favor. I think I left or lost my flash drive in the chair near the fireplace. Could you look for me?

Them: A what?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair i was sitting in near the fireplace.

Them: What?

Me: A Flashdrive, it plugs into a computer, it’s black, about 3 inches long and made of plastic. I think it’s in the chair I was sitting in near the fireplace. It’s either in the chair or table.

Them: Ok.

5 minutes later

Them: (A new voice) Sir we couldn’t find it.

Me: Do you know what you were looking for? I mean that seemed awfully quick.

Them: Sure, but we couldn’t find it.

Me: Uhhh, OK. Can I give you my name and number?

Them: Sure hang on. (another 5 minutes)

At which point I had to repeat my phone number at least 4-5 times and wondered whether she really wrote it down. I say thanks and she says, “Yep”.

I got off the phone and thought to myself, that a) they didn’t look,  b) nor did they care to look, and c) nor did they really know what they were looking for and d) could care less.  I decided right then and there to make the drive back over and look for myself and this is what I saw when I went back to my chair.

Is this thumb drive hard to see? on Twitpic

Look closely. Understand that my camera phone is not a high rez camera but come on-Is this really that hard to see here? What do you think it looked like in person? Talk about being mad, lucky, relieved and disappointed all in one fell swoop! Customer service indeed. I know they are a restaurant but come on help me out here. It would be no different if it was an iphone- the fact of the matter is that they did not look. They didn’t care and thus when employees don’t care about the customer, or customer service, you’re screwed.

Yesterday afternoon, I really wanted to name names and based on a very large group on Twitter, I was given the green light to do it, but that’s not really my style. I will say this, there is chance for this restaurant to get it’s act together. We’re not talking about food quality here, but we are talking about an experience that a customer could share with others.

This weeks #Social Media Topic: Managing the Effectiveness of Your Social Programs #SM55

Effective social media programs? Yeah right, how would you ever prove it? That’s the struggle of corporate social media marketers.  There are tons of systems that help you listen and monitor, there are a lot of publishing tools that let you update multiple accounts and personas in the same dashboard, hundreds of social platforms and a few reporting tools.  The problem is they are all just that, all disparate systems that are not connected and certainly not integrated.

So back to the question, How do you manage the effectiveness of your campaign?  If you are like most social marketers today, there is little support for the social manager who is typically part of the marketing or communications team.  Left to their own devices, they usually use the free tools and simply infer the results that they can patch together.

There is a new suite of tools coming onto the market that proclaim Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) that begin to couple two or three components together.  Here’s the problem, even the specific SMMS solutions don’t provide a real look.  The current SMMS solutions are tools.  They were created as tools to measure other tools.  What’s missing are the actual use cases, the tools that marketers need to track, analyze and report campaigns.  In general, here’s a list of what’s missing:

  1. Central Database – to pull the results together and create a single platform to analyze and report from
  2. Proper Reporting – that integrates the different systems and provides true enterprise analytics and reports
  3. Advanced Sentiment Analysis – not just positive and negative either.
  4. CRM Integration
  5. Traditional Marketing Comparison

Take a look at that last point.  To truly understand the effectiveness of your social programs, you have to have something to compare them against.  Think about it, a platform that could listen, suggest influencers (based on advanced sentiment), provide a place to respond from, track internal links and their paths/subpaths, manage digital ad spend, then monitor traditional ad spends, effectiveness and finally compare and recommend an optimized marketing mix based on real-time results and all at an enterprise scale.  The panacea of managing the effectiveness of your social media programs.  (From my experience, I have only seen this solution from one provider, Accenture Interactive (Disclaimer: Jason Breed works for AI)).

The reality is that only the top brands require the type of solution mentioned above.  Every marketer has unique needs and unique results that will all have different values for each marketer’s brand.  There is one marketer that has the experience to help us work through what’s most appropriate for all needs.  That marketer is Tac Anderson.  Tac has experienced the brand side at HP and the agency side from his current position at Waggener Edstrom.  He will lead the discussion around the following topic:

Topic:  Managing the Effectiveness of Your Social Programs

Q1: What type of planning should go into your social media campaigns? What is your process?
Q2: What metrics should you always be looking at?
Q3: What should always be on your scorecard to measure effectiveness? Are there any constants?

We invite you to join the conversation on Tuesday 4/13 at 12 noon EST by following #sm55 from any Twitter client or from our LIVE site.

The cult of social media celebrityism

I’m starting to become acutely aware of the extreme amounts of entertainment vehicles,  media outlets,  media devices,  content consumption and content creation that are being produced at massive levels all around me. Social media can do that. It can expose you to a lot.

But I’m also coming to a conclusion too.

From a media/content standpoint, what we consume and how we consume it for some of us, is in direct proportion to what we create and why we create it. Social media seems to be  central to this theme that we need to be and can be validated through this “instant recognition”. We see it and we want it too.

Call it “social media celebrityism” if you will. In other words, we the content producers, want to be noticed, we want the attention that we see the “others” getting.

Why do you write? Why do you create vlogs? Why do you tweet? Why do you share your content? Are our motives altruistic? What is the bottom line reason? I don’t know your motives but I would guess that most of you don’t create content out of a vacuum.

What this really means is that all of us content producers have one goal in mind whether we care to admit it or not. We want to be noticed. We won’t shun it if it comes our way. In fact, on the contrary. We’ll embrace it in a heartbeat. I don’t turn down many opportunities, do you?

It’s like we all want, at the least, the 15 minutes that has been afforded us. Most of us would take more if we could too. We laughed when Warhol first said it, but the more I continue to sit back and watch how our wired world is evolving, I see a public that obsesses over being famous and in turn obsesses over  the famous.

Social media has made us vain. Social media has made us want more. Social media has lowered the bar and social media has lowered the barrier of entry into this world.

Social media has made us conscious of the attention we can get and it makes us want it all the more. Most won’t admit that, but most won’t turn away from the recognition if it is somehow bestowed upon them by accident either.

There’s nothing wrong with it. but my concern is that as we become more desensitized to and inundated with UGC, either our desire for better quality will increase-which would be OK, or our expectations for more outrageous, salacious content will need to be met, or we will feel the pressure of sacrificing quality over sensationalism. Sadly, that may have already happened…

Being digitally shallow and outrageous will take on new meaning thanks to social media and search. Our 15 minutes of fame will be compressed and zipped to 7 1/2 minutes…

This isn’t happening to everyone but I dare someone to say that they have never written something that didn’t possess a certain amount of link bait. Who’s to blame? Me, you, our readers, new media, old media, technology..We’re all to blame and yet there’s not a thing we can really do about it. It is the world in which we live in now.

10 social sites you might have missed

I haven’t supplied you with a post that directs you to some cool social sites lately, for that I apologize. So here we go.

1) Check out Tagxedo. It’s Wordle, but on steroids. Though you will have to download Microsoft’s Silverlight to really see it in all of its glory.

2) Start selling in 60 seconds with Tinypay. You want to see micropayments in a down n’ dirty fashion? This is it!

3) I love this deck, The Tipping Points of Social Media

4) If your not a fan of Social Media Today, you should be. Pay attention to this post by Coree Silvera titled 36 Twitter Resources: Advanced Twitter Search for Business, It’s loaded with advanced Twitter search tips you probably don’t know about..

5) Check out the funky named Goomzee.  Goomzee helps increase sales through innovative solutions, specifically designed to connect buyers and sellers. It’s essentially a mobile advertising and lead generation tool for real estate sales and marketing professionals.

6) You knew something like this was going to be created didn’t you? Teneros has created a product called Social Sentry which provides corporations the ability to monitor the social networking communications of their employees. Delivered as a SaaS offering, Social Sentry enables businesses to monitor employee activity on all major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

7) Tungle is cool. Get your personal profile and custom URL to display your availability, and let others schedule meetings with you (without having to sign up). Choose your availability, who you share your page with and when meetings get booked.

8. Though we all read a lot every day, Mitch Joel compiled a nice list of 20 books that you should read. The Digital Marketing Essential Reader

9) This is hilarious. The PPC Blooper pay per click humor blog, with the appropriate URL of…Yourppcsucks

10) Sign up for this and keep your eye out for  Nebul.us

Lastly I want to give a quick shout out to the folks over at Junta42 they just released their eighth installment of the Junta42 Top Content Marketing blogs list. I was honored to place #7 on that list! Thanks guys!

Sharing the work of others

Sometimes, no I take that back, A LOT of times I am just amazed at the work that comes from others. Either via the written word on a great blog, or an incredible viral video, or a killer ad or a killer presentation. In this case, I’m talking about David Griner of Luckie. I had the pleasure of meeting David in Birmingham, Alabama during the Social South conference. We didn’t talk long but nevertheless his skills were evident to me then and are certainly on parade in this deck titled,  The Tipping Points of Social Media.

Elevate your game

With respect to PETA, it may seem sometimes to you like we are beating a dead horse when talking about social media. But the problem is that we get so caught up in learning new shiny ways to make money that we forgot how we made the money in the first place.

It has always been about the customer and it will continue to be about the customer. You’re in business, I’m in business and we”re in business to serve the customer. Making them happy means you live to play another day. Delivering to them the best of what you do is why you do what you do.

All social media should mean to you is that it allows for you to add tools and channels to your marketing mix that help you connect with your customers and future customers.

Quit worrying about the semantics of social media. It’s time to move on.

Beyond the above core statement, what you need to understand about social media is that it has empowered customers and it has now put you on notice. Elevate your game and get your house in order. Period. The age of the new customer is upon us.