Useful Youtility

Jay Baer is a friend and a professional who I have followed and admired for some time.  He is always useful.   So its not surprising his book, Youtility is useful too.  Not only did I Jay Baer's Youtilityenjoy reading it, it is now completely marked up with notes all over it.

Several months ago, I went through my Twitter and Google+ feeds and removed most of the companies I was following (although I did keep media organizations and I didn’t remove people who “represent” companies).   Guess what the result was? Both Twitter and Google+ became a lot more interesting.  The people I connect with are surfacing better content that is of interest to me, and Im feeling more connected to the streams.

I think Jay would call that friend-of-mine awareness.  Companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people.  I suspect it also underpins why Chris Brogan and Mitch Joel recently point to the failings of the use of social networks by business (more coming on this as I finish reading Mitch’s latest book, CTRL ALT DELETE).  Many companies, as they rush to adopt social media and become content publishers are generating all kinds of content, much of it lost in the avalanche of information I have blogged about previously.

Since the social Web is an interactive medium powered by people who are publishing, connecting and sharing, Youtility offers companies a new way to think about the content you publish to ensure it is a) useful and b) differentiated ( ie not commoditized).  And that utility, as demonstrated by Jay with lots of figures and examples, leads to more trusted and better customer connectivity .  Connectivity with information is critical to success for business on the Web.  One of the great examples Jay details, and that I have admired since first hearing about it several years ago at a Marketing conference in Europe, is @hiltonsuggests — everyday local Hilton employees answering travelers tweets about things in their city — the brain child of the Hilton social team and Vanessa Sain-Dieguez and aptly deployed by great Hilton employees.

The concept of “Youtility” is premised on three things:

  1. Self serve information, people choose when and how to access the information
  2. Radical Transparency, providing answers to tough questions before they are asked
  3. Real-time relevancy and related implications for mobile and social

The Youtility concept is also “reliable, scalable, functional and effective.” I’ll add something else the concept is: this is a guide that takes businesses and marketers outside the traditional brand marketing mindset. Pursuing an effort to implement something of “Youtility” encourages consideration for the multi-dimensional characteristics of your brand, your customers and their needs, as well as the ways in which the social Web is different from traditional marketing programs. Ultimately, in that respect Youtility should lead to unique social efforts that are more likely to be successful.

A couple of my favorite chapters are in the latter half of the book where Jay looks at different ways businesses can identify what might be really useful to customers, outside of the traditional market research, although coupled with that customer research too.  As Jay points out, the easy and fun part is defining the topic or content you want to produce to be more useful.  Determining the method of execution for being useful is the big nut to crack if you want to really succeed.

In some respects Youtility may lead you to the conclusion that one of the most effective executions is a mobile app.  And that certainly merits top of mind consideration.  My concern with mobile apps is that they too are becoming almost as much a commodity as content on the Web.  I just went through an exercise of cleaning up my mobile phone with the objective being to de-clutter.  I ditched lots of apps and even some I kept, I still dont use them that often — although to Jay’s point, I kept them because they are useful when needed.

The other execution aspect I thought deserved more discussion was the role and place of your own company Website.  Many company websites have yet to evolve with the content marketing efforts or the social Web. Your Website is your home on the Web.  It is important as your face to the market and represents who you are.  It is also a logical place to drive your usefulness even further.  The book details several outstanding executions utilizing some businesses’ own website, such as McDonald’s Canada, our food, your questions; and the usefulness of Holiday Worlds website .

But if you are looking to adopt the concept of Youtiliy that “smart marketing is about HELP not HYPE” then whatever myriad of executions you deploy, the business Website should be part of it.  Even something as simple as making the “contact us” forms on your Website more customer friendly, while also actually responding to questions from customers.

Similar to any businesses Web site, if your company has community forums, this is another first stop on the way being useful. Company community forums are loaded with so much information that finding the “right” answer to a problem can lead to frustration, be a waste of time and energy.  Surfacing great community content that is useful and a “Youtility” for your business should be a top-of-mind execution as you apply the Youtility concept to your business.

Youtility is about business and its connection to customers, because fundamentally, the intersection of something that is value to your customer, also generates value for business. Ultimately it is what your product or service was founded upon…..and in today’s business environment, it’s the way you continue to drive value: by increasing that intersection of business and customer value.

On a lighter note, as for Jay, well besides being a real pro and always full of usefulness, not in a utilitarian kind of way, in this book he also tells us we are all passive aggressive, and points out its time to say “god bless” Willy Lohman.  You can read the book to figure those things out 🙂

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