Archive for April, 2009

Terrorized into Excellence

IStock_000000742258XSmallAnecdotally, I can tell you that the Dominos Pizza debacle — in which some scabrous pizzamakers in a North Carolina outlet chronicled their disgusting abuses for YouTube — will affect the chain’s business.

How do I know? Because my “mainstream” bride found out about this episode on her own, and when the kids clamored for Dominos, she cursed in Welsh.

When my bride cusses in an ancient Celtic tongue, you don’t cross her again.

Dominos is trying to get ahead of the situation.  They joined Twitter.  The CEO posted an apology to YouTube (with the SEO-savvy title, “Disgusting Dominos People” — wonder if that was the top-trending Google search at the time?)  … Such Social Media moves might satisfy the digerati but will they satisfy regular folks like Mrs. Defren?  Not as likely.

I like Shel Holtz’s idea: “wouldn’t it be cool if Domino’s installed webcams in every kitchen so customers could watch their food being prepared at their local restaurant?”

With cheap webcams, I don’t see this as being financially impossible.

A national media campaign could tout this Herculean effort at transparency.  Folks like my wife would be empowered to police the local pizza joint for any violations — and could report directly to Picture1Dominos Corporate if some “gross” negligence ever occured. And thus my kids could swamp their mom’s protests: “If you’re so worried, let’s watch them make it for us! It’ll be fun!”

That would be an effective campaign for Dominos.  But what does it say about the state of Corporate Culture that some of the most prominent brands to join the Social Media sphere have been “forced” to do so by horrific events?

ComcastCares” is great, but didn’t that effort start soon after the “Comcast Guy Fell Asleep on My Couch” incident?

Everyone loves “RichardatDELL” (and friends), but didn’t my friend Richard get hired after the Dell Hell incident?

That’s not to say that other Big Brands participating in Social Media do so because they’ve screwed up: but I can tell you that many of the brand managers we talk to at SHIFT are “terrified” about the many ways Social Media can go sideways, when we discuss how-to best move forward.

“What if something goes wrong?” they ask.  “It will,” we say.

As they blanche, we continue: “But by getting involved early — by making some smart moves before something goes wrong — you’ll build more effective listening posts, and, you’ll buy your brand some credibility and time to respond appropriately. In fact you’ll have a better feel for ‘what is appropriate,’ by that point.  And best of all, you’ll have a new base of steady friends who will have your back.”

What do you think?  Does the fact that a brand joins the Social Media scene only after a crisis cheapen their conversation?  Or do you give them the benefit of the doubt?

Will you feel the same way a year or two from now, by which point it will have been even more obvious that these brands ought to have “joined the conversation” a while ago?

Welcome, @Oprah!

Oprah_winfrey_storyI’ve seen a lot of great write-ups about the lessons-learned of “Ashton vs. CNN” and “Oprah Joins Twitter!”  I’ve seen scores of Twitterati bemoan the Tipping Point which faces our beloved service.  The hordes are coming!

I’m not going to write anything to add to the overheated debate nor could I add more value than @ckEpiphany or Geoff Livingston and Kami Huyse.

I’m just gonna repeat what I said on Twitter:

It’s OKAY if “everyone joins Twitter.” You still only need follow your friends & allies. No one’s gonna *make* you follow @Oprah.

That’s the beauty of an opt-in service.

There’s more good news, though, which I haven’t seen mentioned by other pundits: with millions of new consumers joining Twitter, brands will have more incentive to set up listening posts in Social Media.

Social Media's Bloodless Revolution

Minuteman_4767_7On April 19, 1775, a ragtag group of neighbors in a rural village decided to upset the apple cart.  They were peeved about the way they were being treated by the world’s most successful, organized, wealthy superpower.

So this teensy-tiny army of Davids took up arms against the faceless, monolithic organization that had ruled their lives since they were born.

And they won.

No, this is not going to be a post about the ridiculous “tea parties” that Dick Armey’s astroturf organization has used to attract the nation’s disaffected naifs.  That effort is too cynical and dark to merit a comparison to the heroic events celebrated by Patriots’ Day.

I’d rather draw a comparison to the uprising represented by Social Media.

For our entire lives, we’ve been in thrall to Corporate America.  Battered by commercial messages.  Ignored or patronized when we had a complaint.

There was a time, not long ago at all, when the last, best recourse for justice was a Letter to the Editor and a complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau.  The former was discarded or ignored; the latter led to a closed-door adjutication process.  Sometimes.

This was the state of consumerism for the past 75+ years.  We were, all of us, bred to it; accustomed; resigned.

Now, a savvy person knows that they can tweet about their Goliath-like cable company and the giant will meekly seek them out.  Now, you can blog about your challenges with a huge car company and they will respond in your forum.  Now, an all-seeing oracle will find and catalog these online transactions for all to see — affecting the reputation management strategies of these mongo corporations, forever.

The revolutionary zeal of the Minutemen at Lexington & Concord required far more bravery.  But the bloodless revolution of Social Media will have impacts just as profound and long-lasting.

And that’s why I’m takin’ the day off.  Viva la revolution!

Can't Hurry Love

IStock_000008259223XSmallRecently I spoke with a prospective client about our “process.” 

I always feel like my answer to the pregnant-with-expectation question about “SHIFT’s process” is a big let-down.  Maybe I should work on that… Meanwhile, here is SHIFT’s process:

We listen – a lot.  We do a ton of research.  Then we brainstorm some funky ideas that we think will play well to the contemporary predilections of the prospective buyers.  We take the time to form relationships with those folks, and usually coax our clients into doing the same.  Then we conduct outreach and response.  Measure.  Report.  Rinse, repeat. 

Not rocket science.  I’d boil it down to:

“Do anything & everything possible to impress prospective stakeholders with creative, relevant content, delivered with a deep respect for their attention and time.”

The next question tends to be, “How long does that ‘listening’ part take?”  To which, again, I offer a disappointing reply: “Longer than you’d probably like.”

There is no lightswitch on relationships.  There is no “process” that guarantees victory. 

Working your way backward from “what customers really want” rather than plunging forward with a message about what you think they need to know… now that’s a solid process.

The Conversation Prism

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas

I was taking a fresh look at the latest Conversation Prism by my friend Brian Solis, and it helped me refine some thoughts that have been percolating in my fevered brain.  Those thoughts are still being sifted but meanwhile I wanted to give a shout-out to Brian and Jesse for their good work.  Thanks, gents!




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