Welcome 2014: Business Gets Personal

I don’t know why, perhaps pure coincidence or perhaps “fate.”  Whatever the reason, the last couple weeks I experienced a continual wave of stories, blog posts, media articles about social media being used in business to personalize the business and/or strengthen real people to people connections (or not).  One slide on slideshare and Facebook noted there is no more B2C or B2B it is all H2H (human to human)….years ago in a presentation I called it to P2P (people to people).sandcastles

At the same time, we (thank you Stacey Hood) were working at making this site new (BTW to those of you that got pinged as we did that, my apologies!): a little more “responsive” experience and about what I bring to those I work with. In that respect, I am a one person business here to work directly with you on how your business can use social media and communications to become more personal and connected.  Its like building personal sand castles on a beach.  

Here are some of the stories I ran into, the stories that grabbed at me last week as I was thinking about people and connections and business:

Story 1 was from H&R Block.  Its Social media team decided it was tax season and time to get personal and reach out. This blog post and video is simple but wonderful.  As they said, “When interacting with a large company online, it’s easy to feel like the people you’re talking to are nameless and faceless. We wanted to change that. The social media team here at H&R Block is available on multiple channels.” Check out the video.

brogans teaStory 2 Chris Brogan and Tea from the good folks Convince & Convert.  I came across this post about Chris Brogan, Who Cares What Chris Brogan is Drinking, noting that he is always sharing what tea he is drinking while connecting with his followers. Barry Feldman writes that he figured out that the tea thing was in order to “drop the façade and talk human to human.”  When he suggested this to Chris, the use of tea and coffee got a whole other dimension:

“He said it was, but he said there’s a more important reason. Bring it Brogan. What might that be? Chris said the coffee and tea subject has proven to be the number one thing people write back to him about. Did you get that? He writes to hundreds of thousands of people. He has several companies and all kinds of services and programs he’d like us to buy, but he wants people to write back to discuss their drinking habits. Hmph.”

Part of being human and making connections is also about listening and learning from your customers and finding out what they are interested in — fostering engagement with other people based on that common interest in order to further strengthen the relationship. That’s a different premise that starting by pushing messages out there.

hbrStory 3 HBR and New Business Paradigms, Less About Social Media,  but again about “people”: Off I went to one of my favorite “content filters”, Prismatic, and among the first posts I come across was this:  “Resolve to Make Your Business Human Again”.  It notes the waning of the era of shareholder value and worship at the church of finance, noting their flaws for successful business.  This posts suggest the new business paradigm will make business human again, encompassing three major components: a) where the customer is boss and a company will only succeed by creating and delivering customer value; b) employees become assets who must be nurtured versus costs to be kept in check; c)the business has a motivating purpose (versus a useful financial target)

Story 4 How Big Organizations and Outdated (?) CRM Systems and Technology Make Really Dumb Mistakes: Francois Gossieaux, shared a story about having just had a brand new Apple iPhone 5s delivered to his house from Verizon. 2+ hours after the delivery he got an email from Verizon saying “Find your PERFECT MATCH. Haven’t quite found the right device? Here’s our top recommendation, just for you.” — which was an offer for an iPhone 5s with free shipping.

You would think we could get better and more precise marketing today, or as Shel Israel and Robert Scoble talked about it in their Age of Context book, pinpoint marketing. Surely companies can get all this technology working together so they can at least send direct mail that is meaningful?

Story 5 Scott Monty shared a post from Forbes about the VC Marc Andreessen has taken to Twitter like a breath of fresh air.  The story notes the dichotomy that “if you’re a prominent or powerful person, a Twitter presence has become de rigueur. But for the vast majority of those who tweet, their Twitter account is just a feed for press releases. Even for those who tweet personally, they are almost always very guarded and cautious (hi, Rupert Murdoch!).  So it was a heck of a breath of fresh air when, with the New Year, Marc Andreessen took to Twitter. Andreessen, of course, is one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley… he’s using Twitter the way you wish every person who gets invited to Davos would. He doesn’t just tweet humorous utterances and replies every once in a while. He goes on epic rants (most recently on the NSA). He tells stories. He entertains replies and is seemingly willing to banter with anyone who’s got anything smart to say. He even, in a feat of social media savvy, uses the “favorite” option as a way to “like” tweets, which has become all the rage of late.”

Going back to Basics:  Building a sandcastle is so much more fun than this. cluetrain roadkill

Those stories reminded me of what was pointed out so long ago in The Cluetrain Manifesto:

“Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.  These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.  Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do…

17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves

18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

23. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.”

After the Spaghettios incident in December, Augie Ray and I had a discussion on Facebook and while the context was the unfortunate incident, the thinking about where the value is to be found in social media relates to the importance of personal and customer connectivity, not mass messages.  Augie said this:

 “The best value brands can provide in social is to listen, cocreate, integrate social into products, offer customer service, educate and evolve for the sharing economy. While SOME marketing departments may get SOME of that right, most are focused on acquisition, impressions and scale. Marketing’s needs are so out of line with consumer expectations, that I think we’ll simply continue to see one marketing blunder after another. It’s time for another department to take the lead while Marketing simply focuses on what it does best–ads and paid media. Social is not essentially a marketing channel but an engagement channel, and there are other departments that are better equipped and with traditional strengths that are better matched for social”

That culmination of stories and thoughts just reminded me that for all we talk about social marketing, scale, social media ROI, employee ambassadors, brands as publishers, content marketing, social network pros and cons, the fact is, the real differentiator that distinguishes what we consider social media from mass media is that the technology is being used to connect people for interactions.

Digital or social marketing, or whatever categories/labels we want to use, fundamentally are not just about another media channel, rather this is a very different mode of connectivity and interactivity – where the real difference also equals really different approaches to how we think about moving businesses forward.

It’s often about solving problems or avoiding them – whether you are a company thinking through the early adoption stages of business and social media or a mature Social Center of Excellence looking for strategic assistance and programs to forge forward.  It’s also about the chances to innovate and make communications with any stakeholder group come alive using new strategies and tactics.

Combining 6 years helping lead Dell’s pioneering social efforts (including getting through some crises, innovating and scaling organizational processes, empowering employees and supporting executive’s in using and understanding social business opportunities) with 20 years in communications (business and politics) this business is focused on connecting and working with you on the challenges you have to move further, faster and more successfully.

It is personal and it’s a relationship between us, and between your business and its’ stakeholders and customers who impact your reputation.

So 2014, here I come.  Hope yours is looking good too?  Its all about people connecting. I hope we get to connect more too – whether it’s here or elsewhere on the Web or in person.  Maybe we can even play on a beach and make a sandcastle of your dreams.  It doesnt have to last, just as long as we move ahead….

2 thoughts on “Welcome 2014: Business Gets Personal

  1. The discussion you had with @augieray -that simple statement: “Social is not essentially a marketing channel but an engagement channel”. I remember reading a long time ago someone wrote something along these lines: “Companies say they want to have dialogue with their stakeholders, but most don’t have the organisational mindset to achieve it”. So very true.

    1. Hi Keith, good to see you as always and appreciate the comment. Training is always a key but also a belief in people in the business should be closer to the customers I think is another part of the imperative. Why is it that we have “customer facing” or touching departments anayway…and then everyone else? 🙂

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