Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

Get the Book!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Hey, just a quick update to let you all know that a book I worked on is now available for preorder on Amazon. Dancing with Digital Natives: Staying in Step with the Generation That’s Transforming the Way Business Is Done has been a long time in coming, and I think I speak for all the authors and editors when I say how gratifying it is to see it in print.

My chapter deals, surprisingly enough, with social CRM and how business can use it to form close bonds with the digital customer, as well as how businesses are built upon social principles. There’s a load of good stuff from other contributors as well, so expect to learn from pages I’m not even responsible for. ^_^

Yes, I did just use a Japanese-style emoticon on my professional blog. I like them, and the regular ones screw up my formatting.

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Brand Warfare Goes Social

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised—if anything, the surprise is in how long we waited—that organizations are using social media to put pressure on other organizations. Recently, environmental activism group Greenpeace used a YouTube video to drive customer outrage against snack food producer Nestlé for its use of palm oil sourced from dwindling orangutan habitats.

The result was a ton of news coverage (from CNN, CNET, Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, and many others—thanks, Google), a practical shutdown of Nestlé’s Facebook page due to angry traffic, and what Greenpeace wanted: severance of the Nestlé relationship with Sinar Mas, the oil supplier accused of illegal deforestation.

Now, I loves me some KitKats. I am aware of the horrible toll they inflict on my health and I eat them anyway, though not so often that you have to worry about my imminent demise. I will continue to eat them in the future. But I’m glad that Greenpeace brought the palm oil problem to my attention, so I can watch for it in other foods. And you can be sure I’ll take a hiatus from my KitKat consumption. I would rather do without a yummy snack than condemn a piece of our world to death.

Side note: Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group was on the most recent Brian Lehrer Live to comment on this situation. (The social media aspect, not my fat butt and KitKat addiction.) I can’t find the video, so I’d appreciate it if somebody would link it in the comments.

Is this a good thing? Should the power that has finally come into the hands of the customer be co-opted by large and powerful groups to further their own ends? My opinion is a guarded yes. Greenpeace is the example at hand, and it is not trying to make a profit—it’s trying to increase awareness of the harm we do to the ecology in the name of profit. While the group has had its excesses (the term ecoterrorism has been applied to some of Greenpeace’s activities), it generally acts to expose a situation it finds worrisome, and lets public opinion do the rest.

As with everything else, there’s the potential for abuse. If there’s something we can learn from social media, it’s that stories spread fast and far, much more so than the truth behind the story can catch up. A brand can be destroyed by one person’s efforts—typically a customer with an axe to grind over shoddy merchandise or poor service. Imagine the damage that can be done by a large, well-funded, coordinated group with a much larger axe to grind. If the cause is just and no lies are told, then I’m okay with it. But what if it had been Hershey’s spreading the Nestlé story? Would we be as sanguine about chocolate maker A inflaming consumer outrage against chocolate maker B, gaining market share by levying accusations against its competitor in the guise of social justice? What if the allegations were untrue?

I don’t really care what happens to individual corporations. I care about customers losing their voice as they’re drowned out by louder ones. All I ask is that you evaluate a story before you spread it. That’s just part of the social contract, and it applies to social media just as much as it does to traditional talk.

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What Financial Services Ads Don’t Say

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We’ve been in this recession for a long time. What is it now, two years? (Answer: Yes. The National Bureau of Economic Research says it started in December 2007.) Businesses in all sectors have been hard pressed, especially financial services. That’s not really so surprising; the great sage Homer Simpson once said that beer was “the cause of and the solution to all of life’s problems,” and that sentiment applies fairly accurately to the stock market.

The desperation of the brokerages is plain to see if you catch their advertisements on TV or radio. Each is more eager than ever before to crow about its funds’ performance against this average or that index, as though it was the only company to have a clue how to make money in a down market. And each one’s advice is the same: Switch to us right now.

This is bad advice for just about everybody. The reason it’s bad is that things are tough all over. If any particular financial advisor was significantly outperforming the rest, we likely wouldn’t be in a recession, and that advisor would be raking in the bucks (even more than usual, since they profit by skimming the action like a casino does). Even Goldman Sachs, the company with more Washington influence than should be legal, is having its share of woes. Every broker has some funds that are doing well, and some that aren’t.

On the flip side of this, there are some Internet brokers advertising their own services on the premise that relationships are worthless. They suggest your relationship with your broker is a sham that only benefits the broker. For some people, this might be true. For others, there might not be a need to pay a commission to somebody else for your own informed financial decisions.

Changing your financial advisor is a major step, not something you do because of a commercial. In fact, making any change to your portfolio on a whim is generally a bad idea, though there are still day traders who think the path to success is rapid buying and selling. Successful investing is about patience, long-term plans, and—this is key—the relationship you have with your advisor. If you’re comfortable with your advisor, and believe they understand and are capable of helping you achieve your goals, you’re in the right place.

I’m open to disagreement on these points, as always. FinServ is not the business where I’m smartest, and the preceding post is heavily influenced by the opinions of people I respect and who know better. But isn’t that exactly what I’m talking about with relationships?

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Random Social Thoughts

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

It might not have been an “eventful” period since my last entry, but there are definitely a lot of things going on in the social media world—enough that I’ve been having some trouble narrowing down my thoughts to one topic. As such, I’ll touch on a number of different things, part-linkdump, part commentary.

More social media guidelines. I’m glad to see that Intel isn’t the only big company getting serious enough about social media engagement to codify its approach (see my previous post here). A recent post on FastForward Blog notes similar efforts by IBM, Sun, and RightNow. Thing 1: The FastForward writer says he was told RightNow’s guidelines were partly shaped by what Intel, IBM, and Sun had set down. Does this mean there’s already a second (or third, or 12th) generation of such corporate policies floating around for the public to see? I hope so. Thing 2: Oracle acquired Sun in April, after failing to reach terms with IBM. I wonder how the acquisition will affect Sun’s social policy, or for that matter Oracle’s.

A man and his brand. Last month (sorry, didn’t see it until a few days ago) filmmaker/author/Jersey boy Kevin Smith did some heavy Q&A for readers of Decider before a live appearance. You can read it here. (NSFW if you’re not allowed to read profanity, or if a guy who answers questions while smoked up is against company policy. I pity those who fit this description.) Say what you want about Kevin Smith (I dig him), this is a guy who really understands himself, his audience, and his industry. He understands it better than major studios who think viral marketing can be made to order and posted to the MySpace and put into the YouTubes. This is a successful creator who knows where he’s from, and what created his fan following, and stays in touch with it without pandering to it. His answer to the third question sums it up well:

Many celebrities seem to guard every shed of privacy they can get their hands on, yet you have always been a very accessible public figure. With a SModcast, a blog, your Evenings With series, and a Twitter, your life seems to be an open book. What drives you to let people into your life in such an intimate way?

I don’t know any other way to be, really. Once media was created that allowed a dialogue to open between filmmakers and audience, there was no way I couldn’t embrace it. This is a communications medium, film. We do this to get a reaction and hear what people have to say about our work. It’s enormously flattering when someone (or lots of someones) are interested in you enough as an artist to wanna know about your life and opinions beyond the actual work that brought you to their attention in the first place. [...]

Kevin Smith is his own successful brand, and he got that way by never trying to be a brand, or be anything other than what he is: a comic-book fan, a regular guy, a sarcastic observer of what he grew up around. I’m not saying that a manufacturer of backed abrasives can have the same ease in relating to its customers, but it’s an ideal to consider whenever social CRM is on the table.

A duel of trust. As our online relationships become broader and more diffuse, we’re starting to ask who we can trust. It’s not surprising that surveys are being conducted on just that topic, nor is it surprising that different sources are getting different answers. The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey (via Adweek) says trust of consumer reviews and opinions—other than those of personally-known individuals—is at 70 percent. The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report, however, says there is “strong to complete distrust” of anonymous consumer reviews, and only about 33 percent trust of online friends’ recommendations. That’s an awfully wide chasm to bridge. To be fair, though, in the Razorfish report 86 percent of respondents say that “whom they trust is dependent on the type of product.” I don’t imagine a war between these opposing points of view, but trust is an important issue that we need to make sure stays current. I’d say it’s more important to figure out what creates trust than to identify its strongest locii, but that route opens the possibility of manipulating trust—something businesses are often all too willing to try. See this New York Times column by Bob Herbert for an idea of what I mean.

Update 1: Shortly after writing this, I came across the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer. (PDF link.) It’s a bit more general than the two above, but still quite valuable. Thanks to Prem Kumar Aparanji (@prem_k) and Josh Weinberger (@kitson) for the tip.

Update 2: Also shortly after writing this, I realized I’d left out my take on the United Airlines broken guitar saga. I’ll save that for my next post.

That’s all for now. Keep an ear open for the next podcast of Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary as the CRM Playaz. It’s coming soon, and these two are always on point and entertaining. No link yet, but Paul’s pretty reliable about putting linkage on his ZDNet blog.

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Social Media Guidelines, In Writing

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I’ve been sitting on this one for about a week, trying to decide how I feel about it. As I found out from a Brent Leary tweet (retweeting @Agotthelf, who was in turn RTing @markjreuter), Intel published its social media guidelines for employees and contractors. This is a good start-Intel may be one of the first names in technology, but it also feels to most people like a faceless megacorp, no matter how many blogs it has or contributes to. Anything that helps to soften that image (like their recent TV commercials with the a cappella jingle) is a step in the right direction.

The Intel guidelines are broken into three sections. The first and third are nothing special; one is a reminder to think before you post, be helpful, and don’t be a jerk, while three is all about guidelines for moderating content in social forums. Both are good to have and necessary to the discussion—it’s posted in the Legal Information section, after all. But section two, “Rules of Engagement,” is the standout part of the document.

The first bullet sets the tone.Be transparent. Your honesty—or dishonesty—will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are blogging about your work at Intel, use your real name, identify that you work for Intel, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.” It’s advice that I (and my colleagues) can’t stress enough, but is often ignored by corporate entities to their detriment. Social CRM touches some of the roles of public relations and marketing, but it is neither, and thus requires a different voice and a more open attitude.

Other entries (“Perception is reality,” “It’s a conversation,” and “Are you adding value?”) are similarly important bits of advice for anybody who blogs on behalf of a business. It’s too easy to forget that you’re not writing to a forum, or a group, or a hashtag—you’re writing to the people who go there because they want something they can’t get from the newspaper or the TV. Each person wants to feel like they’re involved on some level, and each has different opinions and hot buttons.

Of course, Intel is a huge company that must cover its own arse, as well as those of its employees. Thus, the following: Your Responsibility: What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social computing on behalf of Intel is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. If you want to participate on behalf of Intel, take the Digital IQ training and contact the Social Media Center of Excellence. Please know and follow the Intel Code of Conduct. Failure to abide by these guidelines and the Intel Code of Conduct could put your participation at risk. Contact [email protected] for more information. Please also follow the terms and conditions for any third-party sites.” Yeah, it may seem strange or artificial that they have a training program and Center of Excellence (whatever that is), but it shows they’re trying to get it right.

But just as important as that is this: Did you screw up? If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.” Advice like this doesn’t seem to surface often enough. It should be posted on every wall of every room of every building everywhere. The most honest thing you can say is “I screwed up,” and it’s a sign of maturity to try to fix it without being forced to.

As I said when I started this post, I have been letting the topic marinate for a week, so I’ve probably missed some good discussion. Links to other coverage are appreciated, and if you have any other examples of good attempts at corporate social media policy, I’d love to see ‘em.

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