Archive for category Future of Media

The State of Social Media. (A Conversation in Austin)

iweozs30yz1rcfmw7jk2_400x400When we started to advance Social Media as an industry or field of practice back in 2006, I had the highest hopes for our future. I saw social media as an opportunity to not only bring people together, but to bring people from different backgrounds together. Just as Howard Rgeingold had explained in his book Virtual Community, but instead of being in the fringes, it would be at the core of society. I also saw social media as the force for organizational transformation, bringing transparency and openness to companies and governments alike with societal change forcing a new wave of change management.

Unfortunately, as Shel Israel explained to me many many moons ago, we tend to overestimate change in the short term and underestimate it over the long term.

As social media has evolved, SMC is also facing change. While many cities have found a way to persist, others have become a bit more quiet. Perhaps remaining as a strong online community as Austin has done without a lot of in person events, or just folding altogether. This is actually normal and healthy. Change is a constant and is required for any community in order to remain relevant and valuable to its members.

The question becomes what do we need? What do we want? What are we willing to do to have it?

While I’m not seeking to get involved in the organizational structure discussion, I am interested in getting more engaged with the community here in Austin now that I will be down here regularly over the months ahead. So I want to talk to some other folks who care about what’s going on in social media today – to share experiences, insights and yes, miseries too. While social is now pervasive as a medium, it’s less then optimal as a profession.

In recent weeks I’ve spoken to way too many people who are struggling, who are undervalued by management and who still don’t have an easy+valid way of proving their ROI. So while social is amazing in so many ways, it’s not yet widely honored for its true potential which means it’s not getting the investment it deserves which means it’s not getting honored for its value… Ugh.

So this isn’t going to be a pity party. Not in the least. It is going to be whatever we want to make it together as a round table conversation with whoever shows up. I’ll start with deeper remarks on the subject to kick things off, talking about the why’s and whatnots as I see it, then open up for questions and ongoing group conversation.

So what is the State of Social Media from your perspective? Share in the comments and if you are in Austin, come join us next Tuesday at 630pm at the Ants Eye View offices in North Austin.

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The Slow Rise of the Customer Experience Designer & Architect #CXDNow

The Slow Rise of the Customer Experience Designer & Architect aka, “Why Chris Heuer is focusing on CX and the role of Holistic Strategy”
In 1999, the full impact of the nascent digital revolution was just finally being realized. The vision of the future I first saw 5 years previously, when I launched my first “dotcom” and interactive agency, was starting to become reality. With a new baseline for the status quo, everyone was beginning to have visions of what might come next – mobile, interactive tv and ubiquitous networked computing. Through my position as the Chief of eBusiness at the United States Mint, I began to connect with the Fast Company community more deeply after being a reader from issue #2. It was then that I discovered “The Experience Economy” and began to really think differently about marketing and engagement.

At the time, filling the marketing funnel was focused on advertising, a bit about PR, and increasingly about being an interactive lean forward experience instead of a lean back media experience. I had some marketing experience, some ad sales experience and a lot of common sense, which was still considered unconventional wisdom by most. I had also learned of the power of “Virtual Community” from Howard Rheingold’s fantastic book that introduced me to the power of ‘social media’ in the form of human connection through computer mediated communications. All of these experiences and visions of our future coalesced that year when I was charged with the marketing and growth of numismatics through electronic channels. I thought, “how the heck can I grow the market for coin collecting?”

There were a few obvious things, like reaching out to children and those interested in history. I tried to develop communities on the various portals, but could never convince the marketing boss to let us try to partner with Lycos or Yahoo. In fact, I even failed to get an online advertising budget, even though we had Kermit the frog as our official ‘Spokesfrog’. The old guard was standing firm on this stuff, and it was my first real experience in trying (and failing) at corporate change management. We had some wins though, so it was a great experience overall, especially working with Michele Bartram who was (and still is) a pioneering leader who knew a bit more about how to play this silly game called office politics.

But for myself personally and professionally, it was a pivotal moment. In asking that question about how to grow the market, it lead me to thinking differently about the nature of the market itself. It’s when I developed what I then called the customer experience lifecycle, or what is now more commonly known as the customer journey. Not thinking about a particular segment, but thinking about how the whole world related to our products and the market as a whole.  Thinking about how we could change people’s behaviors in a positive way towards our offering and ultimately, buy more products and spread word of mouth. By figuring out what knowledge they needed to have and what experiences depending on the stage of the relationship, we could provide them value beyond the product and ensure that they were connected to more people like themselves. In so doing, we could develop loyalty and reinforce their interest in coin collecting to potentially maintain it as a life long hobby.

Customer Experience LIfecycle v.5

Simultaneously, we were seeing the rise of CRM, moving beyond list management and into the era of relationships. Unfortunately, as with most early movements, there was a lot more lip service to the idea of relationships, and early CRM was mostly focused on managing order history and tracking customer support. They spoke loftily of getting a 360 degree view of the customer, of combining Claritas demographic data to develop new insights that would feed the communications strategies and messaging content. All the while not realizing that fully embracing these principles would require that we provide customers a 360 degree view of the company first. Or as Patricia Seybold would say with Customers.com, “Provide your customers with all the information that they need to purchase and enjoy your products or services.” I knew then, as we all do now, that embracing such a concept would transform the market and society as a whole. To actually care about customers, what a concept!

So I started working on advancing a concept I called, “Holistic Business Strategy“, thinking more about the whole of the business then any of its siloed parts. Years later, I saw similar thinking in what Robert Scoble called “the contextualizers,” people who could put aspects of the business in context to develop greater understanding of both strategies and operations to improve the bottom line. But at the time, holistic was more closely associated with hippies, crystals and ayurveda than serious business. In fact, despite my article from 2011, “The Time has come for Holistic Business Strategy,” the time has still not come – at least not fully. Instead, the concept has arisen in the form of Customer Experience, Journey Mapping and Design Thinking using an ‘outside in’ approach. Same thinking, same impetus, similar executions, different language.

While my concept of the customer experience lifecycle was not leveraged by the US Mint in the way that I had hoped, I was able to convince the COO of Palm, Alan Kessler, when we were both speaking at PC Expo in 2000. That lead to a multi-year relationship with Palm, where I worked with a stellar web team, the majority of whom I still stay in contact with today. During that time I became friends and worked closely with Rick Wootten, who had a similar understanding of a modern approach to marketing and a similar desire to get beyond interruption based advertising. We saw greater power in the development of content that would help people move along their journeys and build closer relationships with the company and its products.

After a long courtship, I secured a contract to not only help Palm build a platform for the Palm Economy, but to also develop a next generation content management system that would in essence be driven by the strategic principles inherent in what I had then come to call “The Customer Strategy.”

This is why I was excited to see a demo of the future looking Customer Journey Designer product from IBM back in May 2015, at the IBM Amplify conference in San Diego where I was invited as a #NewWayToEngage influencer. To see the vision of a journey mapping product that not only served the purpose of enabling people from across a company to better collaborate in service of their customers needs, but also to serve as a dashboard to monitor execution and optimize spending in near real time. It was, as Olivier Blanchard wrote “the marketing management solution we have all dreamed of.”

Naturally, I was beyond excited and sought to learn more. It is then that I discovered that the product was still in development and hopefully would begin with availability in the fall. So when the influencer program managers reached out to me to meet with the product management team in early September, I jumped at the chance. For all the conference invites and travel IBM provides through the program, the main compensation is the access and the extra promotion of my independent work and words. Given that they were going to pay me for a few hours of consulting to share some of these experiences and insights I have developed over the past 16 years, I was particularly excited. Not only to see something I have been thinking about come to life, but to in some small way contribute to it, to be a part of it. Well, that’s just cool.

It was then that I saw the first demo of the Journey Designer product, which is now available for free to everyone, and had a chance to discuss the vision for the product strategy and road map with Doug Foulds and his team. As he told me during that call, “we have humble beginnings in front of us, and are looking for practitioners to go on this journey with us.” This reinforced what I’ve come to learn over the last several years through my relationship and interactions with them, this isn’t your father’s IBM. The nature of business is fundamentally transforming to a broader appreciation for the true nature of the ecosystem in which it operates and an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between companies, employees, customers, partners, and even competitors.

After that call, I huddled with some of the #NewWayToWork team and we discussed possible ways I might be able to work with them beyond simple advisory calls. Amy Tennison of IBM and Courtney Smith Kramer of PureMatter are not only smart people who I respect, they have also become good friends over the past couple of years through which I have been engaged in the program. So when Courtney suggested there might be sponsorship dollars available to more deeply explore this topic and share my insights with everyone through my blog, I realized that the time had come to actually share some of this story and to help ‘advance the field’ more broadly.

As with social media 10 years ago, I see Customer Experience Design as having it’s zeitgeist moment. Not only is this new Journey Designer product from IBM being released now, but my dear friend and colleague Brian Solis is launching his new book, “X – The Experience When Business Meets Design.” So as we went on the journey together to expand the proper use of social media by people around the world, so to are we serving to empower this next wave of business transformation with insights and inspiration. As I said to Courtney, “the time for Customer Experience Design is NOW!”. This is how I landed on the show being called #CXDNow.

Personally I am incredibly optimistic about where are going with this latest advancement to market engagement. Where it starts today with the IBM Journey Designer is as a simple design tool that enables people from across the company and their agencies to collaborate in real time on the development of a customer journey map. To lay out all the different phases of the customer journey and all the different touch points, campaigns and experiences that any customer might have across an omni-channel landscape. While it sounds simple, as you may have heard in my conversation with Brian Solis yesterday, the coordination of these activities requires a certain type of collaborative culture, and is often only happening in companies who have already undergone a digital transformation or modernized their culture for our current market. Although I can’t reveal where it goes from here due to the NDA I have signed with them, I can tell you that I hope to be a part of that journey in many ways, not only as a creator of sponsored media or a member of their influencer program, but as a user and perhaps one day, more.

Over the course of the next six weeks with #CXDNow, we will cover the gamut of topics that you need to know in order to leverage the power of Customer Experience Design. From the basics to the future. Together we will not only cover educational material, but we will also see how the principles are put into practice as I seek the advice of leading practitioners who we have invited as guests. Beginning on Wednesday at noon PST with an interview of IBM Journey Designer Product Manager Doug Foulds, we will more closely examine the current need for their product and understand the broader benefits of journey mapping for your customer experience.

This is an exciting time. For me, it’s been 16 years in the making. Not only do we have all the amazing insights Brian Solis has packed into his Book “X,” and the lessons learned from the IBM Journey Designer team, but by using Blab to record our shows, I will also have the opportunity to share more of the work I have been doing and have yet to publish. Perhaps more importantly, we will also get a chance to learn from you, so that we may accelerate and amplify the rise of the customer experience designer and architect for our mutual benefit, together. In so doing, we have a chance to go beyond paying lip service to customer centricity, and finally embrace what I call “radical customer empathy.”

Join us, with #CXDNow.

Disclosure: While IBM is sponsoring the #CXDNow series, the contents and opinions are purely my own. As a #NewWayToEngage and #NewWayToWork Futurist, IBM includes me in events like the upcoming #NWTW Tour and the #TEDatIBM event, amplifying my independent comments without directly influencing what I say in any way.

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Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected Society

Note: This post outlines our plan for a video project / documentary we are producing while in Austin next week.

Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected SoceityMany of you, like myself, have spent the past several years, or decades perhaps, focused on inventing and building our future. Through our own personal experiences, challenges and insights we’ve made decisions about where we wanted to invest our time and energy and what outcomes we wanted to produce. For some, it has been a movement. For others, a family. For others, building a business to solve both small and large problems. For others, its been about manifesting a vision of something never before imagined possible. And for others still, it’s simply been about getting by in an increasingly fast paced, overly complicated and increasingly connected world.

While we are on one hand still fighting poverty, injustice and inequality, we are truly standing at the dawn of an even more incredible future then we might have even imagined just a few years ago. In fact, my Alynd Co-Founder Rawn Shah made the point during our Work Hackers Salon the other night that the Renaissance could be considered a failure due to the limited participation it produced in the upside of the prosperity and knowledge it generated. His point was, can you imagine what we are capable of within our connected society today, where we have access to each other and so many enabling technologies? Indeed, a new age of enlightenment is already underway, but the era ahead of us can be even more spectacular then we can even imagine.

This is why I want to bring people together in painting a picture of what we want our tomorrow to look like and sharing our blueprints for how to build it. The real challenge is, how do we look past how things are and begin to make them how they should be? Can we transform large slow moving conservative organizations or are they beyond hope? With a sense of unease coming from a perception that both corporations and governments are failing humanity, and a market that is seemingly unfair and out of balance, how can we break free from what we have always known to create a better tomorrow? What are the most important things for us to understand? Where should we invest our most precious and limited resource, our time?

So next week in Austin, we will connect and have conversations with the many great people who are leading us towards this future. We will seek to discover more about their own noble pursuits and see if we can determine how we can each find the courage that it takes to lead others into this future with us. While George Bernard Shaw famously said “all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, Building Our Future is not a solitary act, but the collective actions of millions spread around the globe. In the connected society of today, perhaps he would have said “all progress depends on the connected man’s ability to gather others for collective action.”

This is post is an introduction into the idea behind “Building Our Future”, to bring together leading futurists, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and those who are on the front lines, leading us into a better tomorrow within our deeply connected society. There are of course, many worthy areas for discussion, but we’ve identified a few key topics that we believe to be the macro-trends around which our collective future is being built.

So next week in Austin, from Friday March 7 through Monday March 10, 2014, we are gathering the leaders and the tribes who are already in town for that big interactive conference. We will be hosting round tables on each of these topics (links to come shortly) and interviewing leaders with visions of the future and stories of transformations to share. You can request an interview time slot using this form – be sure to explain what topic you want to address and a little more on your story. For the round tables, we will be using the same format we did for the Social Media Clubhouse in Austin in 2010 – in short, a handful of featured speakers/guests and other subject matter experts in the audience to lob in questions and participate on a more limited basis.

We are still seeking sponsors/investors in this project. Our goal is to collect as much footage as possible while in Austin from conversations with the people who are building our future, so that we might be able to create a long form video/documentary that we can release in a few months. We have different sponsorship levels available from $2,500 to $25,000. Only $10,000 gets you a co-producer credit, a small one hour meet up on Saturday or Sunday and a room at the Echo Studio, which is being held at a beautiful bed and breakfast just off of South Congress about a mile from the convention center.

More info to come on the bigger story behind this idea shortly, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email echostudio@adhocnium.com

Many thanks to Sponsors Echo, Ancestry, Alynd and many other in-kind sponsors for their support of this effort. [disclosures: long time friends with Echo, for who I am producing this event; my wife works at Ancestry.com and Alynd is my new startup we are previewing next Sunday, so it is still just a family affair, though that will change shortly with your help]

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Egypt: More Than the Power of the Network, It’s Also Pervasive, Simple and Cheap

Broadly I agree with Matthew Ingram in his post It’s Not Twitter or Facebook, It’s the Power of the Network, though I think the Foreign Policy columnist Evgeny Morozov he cites is missing the point. It is seemingly clear that the tools, and Social Media broadly, played a crucial role in changing the rules of the game and the perception of reality on the streets. While those I have called “Digital Utopians” are often overly engaged in puffery, not willing to see the potential negatives and overstating the importance of these tools relative to an everyday person’s perspective, there are a few other factors are at the core of this disruption, though they are perhaps more nuanced.

IMHO, it’s not just the network as Matthew credits, but the acceptance of, and understanding of its use – ie, it’s a mindset created by the pervasive and daily use of the Web and social media in aggregate (to Dave Winer’s point) – though crediting Facebook and Twitter are merely a convenient short hand reference that is illustrative of everything else. It’s a mental outlook on the world that is helping individuals to feel more empowered and hopeful for a better existence instead of beaten down by despair. This is amplified as the media gives credit to the tools (making more people see their power) and the word of mouth that such broadcasts create that changes the collective outlook.

But this wasn’t happening 15 years ago when we were originally logging on and talking about network effects. It’s only happening today because of the percentage of the world that has adopted social media as a set of communications and connection tools. It’s happening because the technology is much more simple to use at nearly zero cost (when most people have the hardware in their back pockets, and services like Twitter and Facebook don’t require credit cards or monetary exchange, that equals nearly zero cost in my book). It’s a mindset that has changed in many who are no longer feeling voiceless, powerless and unable to create change. It’s a mindset that enables people to believe that they can truly “be the change you want to see in the world.”

And it didn’t happen merely because of the network and its power, though referencing it is also a convenient short hand. It happened because the network was made easy to use and accessible by a sufficient percentage of citizens. When it is blocked, it creates a great feeling of helplessness in many, and the knowledge required to route around it to use hacker tools is a high enough barrier to prevent entry for most… but even these are becoming easier to get past. Once those ‘alternative access’ tools are inexpensive and easy to use by a greater number, it won’t be possible to effectively deploy an Internet kill switch.

And yes, it’s a network effect that helps drive it, but the tipping point, and the reason social media deserves more credit then its detractors would give, is largely because we have made many of the tools much easier to use and more widely available, not just because the network is there.

Going even deeper, it is further supported by the perception of the power that spreads as people credit many of the tools for either receiving or sending communications. So it takes on a “life of its own” relative to its importance. At the end of the day, it’s the people and the changes in perception they have of what’s possible and what is not that is really powerful.

I won’t get into the power of prayer, or the Tao of Physics too deeply here, but in closing I would just add that many believe our remote amplification of positive thoughts and well wishes does indeed create just the tiniest amount of energy that supports different outcomes. So while the fact that we are tweeting or retweeting the happenings over there is not the cause of the outcome, I suspect that we, the human network – like the trees in Avatar – are indeed contributing, if only in the slightest most infinitesimal way.

At the very least, we know anecdotally that within the sea of noise that is created, sometimes there is a needle found in the haystack that practically and actually does get help delivered where it is needed. While the network is to be credited, if it weren’t pervasive, simple to use and cheap, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

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I’ve Joined Deloitte Consulting LLP

Since a few of my colleagues at Deloitte began tweeting about it Monday night, and my friend Luke Fretwell (founder of GovFresh) retweeted it yesterday, I realized the cat was out of the bag and I couldn’t wait any longer to talk about it myself. So I mentioned it briefly last night at our Social Media Trends 2011 event for Social Media Club San Francisco and a bunch of attendees tweeted it out only to be picked up more widely.

I am really excited to announce I have taken a position at Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Specialist Leader  (aka Senior Manager) with a focus on Social Media, Enterprise 2.0, Innovation and beyond. I am perhaps even more excited about the extraordinary people I’ve met at the firm so far and the tremendous potential we have for continuing to build out a great consulting practice that supports some of the best companies in the world who are Deloitte clients, or soon will be.

I was hoping to get a better handle on my surroundings and to better define my role in the organization before talking about this publicly, but as we have been saying for so long, “you can’t control social media.” So here’s the short version of a longer story we will be talking more about in the near future:

  • Big thanks to my friend and colleague John Hagel for making the introduction last summer that lead to this opportunity and the many senior partners with whom I will be collaborating.
  • I am going to be based out of the San Francisco office, but expect to be traveling all across the country.
  • I get to work with an incredible team, in what is known as the Social Computing and Collaboration group under the Technology Strategy and Architecture practice within Deloitte Consulting LLP.
  • I am staying on as Chairman of Social Media Club and will remain active in an evangelist role and fulfilling my board duties while my wife Kristie Wells will stay on as President and continue to build out the association with our Gamma Chapter Leaders.
  • I made this decision because its the right sort of environment and the right sort of smart people who can enrich my professional life, help me seize some of the opportunities that I see in the market (such as holistic business strategy) and where I can contribute to the greater well being of the organization in a multitude of ways.

For now, that’s all I can really say, not only because we will still be doing an official media alert or something like it, but also because there are some things we still have to figure out together. What I can say is that its going to be an amazing journey, and I am very much looking forward to 2011 and beyond.

If you would like to schedule an interview with me, you should reach out to Deloitte PR. If you are looking for a job, check out Deloitte’s open job positions and see some of the reasons I decided to join. If you are a Deloitte client and want to talk to me about your projects, reach out to your team lead and they will figure out what to do to get me engaged.

Disclaimer: Of course, none of the statements here reflect the views or opinions of Deloitte, they are all my own personal observations and statements. All links to the Deloitte Web site are made for your convenience. I am merely sharing my personal perspective on a significant personal life event, taking on my first ‘real job’ in over 10 years, when I previously worked for the United States Mint as Chief of eBusiness.

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Is it ok for companies to pay to be featured users in Social Media sites?

TwitterI don’t know how I let this distract me from my work I am doing in my hotel room [oh wait, is that an Eagle flying over the BC Place Arena out my window? shoot, where was I? oh yes, Twitter] – So I stopped in on Twitter and happend to see this tweet from Robert Scoble and mistakenly clicked the link, only to get my panties all in a bunch at the level of pettiness and noise in the comments on his post about the importance or unimportance of having more followers on Twitter and on this one about whether or not TechCrunch paid to be featued on Twitter’s list of suggested user’s to follow. [if you can spare a few hours and resist the temptation to scratch your eyes out, there are some really good points in both of the threads if you can get past the baseless and off-topic ones]

As Robert admitted in the comments, he did a bad job of framing the question on TechCrunch and Twitter, partly driven by a desire to get you involved in answering it (ie getting more ppl like me excited and upset which is what people with journalism degrees sometimes do, obviously with some effectiveness).  As such, I want to try to reframe the issue with some clearer questions and thoughts. NOTE: I did not read all the comments because I don’t think I cold avoid the impulse to scratch my eyes out or go deaf because of all the noise in that thread (personal aside: wow, do we need Insytes more then ever today).

Before going further, I want to point out that we should not unfairly target our good friends Ev/Biz and their hard working team which needs a real business model to ensure their service is sustainable.  The reason for me dropping what I am working on for Social Media Club Portland tomorrow night and Social Media Club Seattle Tuesday night (both sold out unfortunately) is that this is really important question that should receive some critical examination.  The issue is important to consider for all organizations online, most especially social networks, blogs and web services – but also for media companies, associations and other non-profits who work with advertisers, sponsors, donors and/or patrons.

This is clearly a discussion on disclosure first and foremost, but as a result, I hope other important lessons can be learned too…

Q1: Is Twitter adopting a pay to play model for being featured anywhere on its site? Are other sites doing this without making it clear? If so who?

A1: I don’t know, do you?  Besides answering here in the comments, maybe we need a wiki page to list those who do things like this but dont disclose it properly?

Q2: Does this sort of advertising (and the sort that has GaryVee using adsense to promote his twitter account) have a positive or negative impact on other users? on the Web 2.0 / Social Media era? on the broader society?  Does it matter at all? Q2b: Does this conversion of dollars into the power to get attention take away from our open/transparent/meritocratic ideals? In which situations is this ok?

A2: I think it is ok accompanied by simple disclosures and transparency as that will reveal true intentions and we, as informed citizens, can make our own judgments on the value of that reccomendation. In the case of Garyvee, it just seems odd, but there is nothing wrong with that.  Strategically he is the BRAND of his company (do you know what his company is?) so advertising his Twitter account does help his company/.  Personally, I believe that strategically he would be better off putting WineLibrary.TV in the ads for increasing the overall awareness of his great wine buying advice site, despite the likely decreased click through rate from a non-personal, company branded ad. Of course, the mere fact of breaking ground in this way has led to plenty of other new followers for him as a result of people like me writing about it… but that’s Gary, always passionately leading the way for others to follow…

Disclosure: Just last week I contacted the folks behind TwitterCounter to see if we (aka me for @SocialMediaClub) could buy a ‘follow us’ ad on their top 100 page – as the noise gets louder, we need better ways for getting noticed. @SocialMediaClub was in the top 100 on TwitterCounter for several months until recently being kicked off the list by the volume of hollywood celebtrities joining conversation (which is a more interesting issue in itself to talk about a bit later).

Q3: Will the user community (especially new registrants) be better off if Twitter is open about how they are doing it?

A3: This is the only one I will answer in detail because I am sure that everyone will be better off.  This is similar to the need to put the word advertorial on top of paid placement in print. People know a banner ad when they see it, but a ‘friendly recommendation’ that is soley based on the ability of people to pay that doesn’t inform the consumer is harmful to the  spirit of transparency we are trying to manifest in the world. It may even potentially be an issue for the FTC, so let’s do our best to solve this before someone else does.

This hits on two of Social Media Club’s missions, both Media Literacy and Ethics.  It’s hard enough for most people to know when they are being advertised too already, so this, if true, is a real problem for me personally and professionally.

Q4: Should celebrities and companies be on separate lists – should we have user ‘types’ to differenentiate and allow people to see different accounts? Shouldn’t companies (including perhaps our non-profit Social Media Club) with over 10,000 followers pay a reasonable fee for the service? It certainly would still be cheaper then a newswire for a press release]

A4: Well, let’s be honest, this is my suggestion not a question, so my answer to these questions is yes.

What do you think?

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Wealthy are less greedy these days

What do I mean by saying the wealthy are less greedy these days… To get to the point, that is one of the insights gleaned from the results of a quick survey I did on Ask 500 People, that people who have higher incomes generally think they have enough stuff and a very low percentage of people making over $100k think they don’t have enough stuff.

enough_by_income

Before I get any further into the meaning of the results, I need to do a better job of setting the stage, from the beginning.  You see, it’s been on my mind a lot lately that I really do have enough stuff.  That the all out feeding frenzy at the buffet of consumerism is perhaps coming to an end.  Many retailers are going to be really hurt as we have seen already with Circuit City, Mervyns and Macy’s among the first to experience the hardships.  Now this is especially going to be true for those retailers who aren’t using ecommerce effectively (as you may have seen in my brick and mortar review, shopping at the mall isn’t what it used to be).

People are waking up to the wastefulness of our habits (I sure have – everything from the amount of food that spoils to the amount of packaging materials I throw away and of course, all the old obsolete technology – ugghhh). More and more people from all walks of life are, from all around the world, are realizing that this sort of behaviour is unsustainable.

Do You Have Enough Stuff?

With a margin of error of what I believe is +/- 2% for all respondents (424) versus known respondents with unverified profiles, I think these stats are close to speaking for the whole.

I see some other stuff here that is interesting, and I need to take some more time to write my post for “The Economy of Enough” which is what inspired me to ask this question, so I will just close by saying that if we were still in the Gordon Gecko era of cash is king 80’s, I would suspect it might look something like this:

enough_by_income2

Just for kicks, lets take a nostalgic look back at Mr. Gecko’s infamous speech

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Foundational Fixes For Economy #alt2bailout

Face-to-face trading interactions on the tradi...

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This morning over sausages and beer at Citizen Space, the talk inevitably turned to the economy and whether it was going to turn around or tank.  The great thing about co-working is the diversity of perspectives you can get in any conversation.  Without the corporate silo walls preventing us from interacting, without being organized by similarity of activities performed, and without anything connecting us more then a shared sense of place, we get by the bullshit and get real.

Anyway, I digress, because my point is more about what we really need to change in order to correct for our broader market problems (though I clearly think the silos between us are uber important).  What will it take? Less Greed?  Sure, but how do we stop one of the most powerful and highly motivating of the 7 deadly sins?  We certainly don’t legislate it all away, its an emotionally charged human behaviour.  No, we must really start the change from within.  Microsharing is perhaps an appropriate meme to leverage – now we need to get on to microgrowing, where we each grow a little bit each day in terms of understanding how connected we are to the world around us and the other people in it.

This was one of the original purposes of BrainJams, and then Social Media Club – to bring together people from a large diversity of backgrounds to see past the differences of culture, style, economic status and intelligence and see into the hearts and souls of each other.  To see that as much as we are individuals, we are also all one.  We are on this earth together.  We are part of this ecosystem less then we are masters over it.  We are in it together.

Whether or not you believe in the butterfly effect or chaos theory, you certainly have experienced the impact that another person can have on you and that you can have on them.  There is no denying that we are all connected in some way – the homeless man and Donald Trump, George Bush and Cindy Sheehan, and even Charlie Manson and the Benedectine Monks.  What we do affects others.  Simple.  What we do affects the earth. Simple.  What others do affects us.  We need to be mindful of this impact and find a way to ensure its balance.  To balance our self interest and drive with the broader interest of the world around us and its needs for our unique contribution to it.

What we need to fix to help our economy is to not reward greed and excess with tax breaks and bailouts but with meaningful penalties.  Perhaps they can use their great talents to serve as community organizers – to solve big problems.

One specific place where a change in perspective can have a potentially big impact is in looking at our unrealistic expectations of investment grade returns of our investment capital after a company has developed a mature market.  We probably need to fix the general public perception about investment markets in the US really.  We need to get beyond the expectations of constant never ending growth of our investments and look more to the long term. More like the Europeans with a 5 year view of the market instead of a quarterly perspective.

We need to shift our thinking of investments into alignment with reality.  At some point, investments in mature markets become consistent profitability instead of a doubling of revenue. The investor reward on this investment has a ceiling, but if it is successful will always reward your risk with income in the form of dividends.  Wow, what a concept!  So instead of looking for my money to grow exponentially, I realize it is providing me with $250,000 in income each year.  That sounds pretty darn reasonable to me.

Wasn’t that how utilities and railroads used to operate?

This is clearly a sociological problem. A psychological problem.  So it is hard to imagine any scenario where our government is going to be able to force this sort of change in society.  That change needs to come from inside of us. Each and everyone of us. We need to be aware of the world we inhabit, our role in it, our stewardship of it and our responsibilities to each other that when honored will reward each and everyone of us.

It starts simply with microgrowth.  Personal development and an acceptance of the reality we are facing as a result of a way of thinking that is not based in reality.  Humans Don’t Scale no matter how big our appetite for growth is.

Is it possible for this change in thinking to ever take place? Whats good about it and whats bad about it?

A view of the world in balance with our place in it is all I am seeking,  There are many ways to that path.   Tag yours with #alt2bailout and lets learn from each other and discuss other issues we need to address along with potential solutions to our problems.

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Living in the Era of Conversation

happy conversations are surely bestOver the past few months, I have had several opportunities while speaking, to experientially teach people the power of conversation to create understanding between people that goes beyond our choice of words. In each case, someone in the audience (or in a meeting) misconstrued what I was saying because my word choice did not match their own perceptions regarding an intention or point of view around a particular subject. Through the give and take and back and forth of conversation, we were both able to realize we were merely describing the proverbial different parts of the elephant as the blind men might do.

The idea of widespread participation in ‘the conversation’ is a very challenging thing for corporations to embrace because you not only lose control of the message, but also because you risk losing control of the messenger, and their personal judgments and speech. Last night this came into focus more clearly when my colleague Josh Bancroft criticized our efforts with Social Media Club when he wrote a blog post that said we had “nuked the fridge”. Now, we have received some criticism and some praise throughout the day, which to me is good because it means we are no longer in what Kathy Sierra has referred to as the zone of mediocrity, which is where we were for too long (IMHO).

My challenge isn’t with criticism, it is with a set of broader issues which I guess you could consider as the ‘hot buttons’ that set me off. For this, I want to apologize to Josh for snapping back at him, but I also would like to ask you to indulge me in looking at the bigger picture here, which is a bit complex and for which I am afraid my ability to communicate is not sufficient. I don’t mean to call Josh out specifically here, but this incident really has helped to clarify my thoughts around this issue and I think it is a valuable lesson to share.

While this is not a complete list, as I see it today, there are five things we should understand and consider when living in the era of conversation.

First, it is the matter of intention

Second, it is the matter of making assumptions

Third, it is the matter of familiarity and respect

Fourth, it is the matter of ethnocentrism (or technocentrism)

Finally, it is the matter of responsibility

Intentions matter a lot, and for us to disregard this in public discourse and/or in understanding each other through our actions is to completely misunderstand what being social is all about. In a very real sense, at least from my perspective, I was largely given a ‘hall pass’ on the failures of Social Media Club (SMC) because most people know that my intentions are good, that I am living my values, that I am honest and that I am working for positive change despite falling short on occasion. Last night, I was talking to my Conversation Group colleague Eric Doyle (our office Buddha) who was discussing the meaning of influence with someone who doesn’t believe in PR. He mentioned that influence was largely understood to mean manipulation. I pointed out to Eric that influence itself is not inherently good or bad, but rather it was the intentions behind the use of influence that determined whether it was helpful or exploitative. My drinking of a Peroni may have influenced others who joined our group to also drink a Peroni (it was so tasty!) but there was no intention of manipulation there, or for that matter of being helpful – I was just drinking a cool refreshing Peroni 🙂

In another exchange yesterday, a colleague from Intel Kelly Feller pointed out that there were not a lot of corporate practitioners on the SMC Interim Board (there are in fact 6 or 7). I had worked hard to invite a wide range of people to provide different perspectives and was taken aback by this a little. Since I don’t know Kelly all that well (we have only spoken by phone/email a few times, but I clearly understand she has value to contribute and generally ‘gets it’), I was able to keep a more level head. While a bit ‘perturbed’ at this pronouncement, I engaged her in Twitter conversation to determine her intentions and ask if she was interested in helping, to which she answered “who would I be to criticize and then not be willing to help? 😉

But when Josh decided to say that we nuked the fridge, his use of colorful language, in my mind (and based on prior observed behaviour), was used to draw attention and demean our efforts, not make them better or engage in conversation. This was in stark contrast to the approach that Lloyd Davis took in the comments when noticing that we had made a mistake in claiming 42 interim board members, when in fact there was only 41. Had Lloyd’s intention been anything other than to respectfully get to the facts, he may have written a blog post calling us liars and committing a fraud on the public, though clearly this was a simple, and all too human, mistake.

This leads me into my second issue, which is about making assumptions. Now we all have to do this generally to get by in the world (is this person I am dating ‘sponge worthy‘ for instance), but largely we tend to make assumptions when we should be asking questions and seeking clarifications. This is one of the central points of what I think is the most important book of our time (and my favorite), The Four Agreements. Clearly I am not perfect in this regards because I assumed that Josh was attacking me and SMC for his own gain rather than calmly engaging him and trying to get at the root of his concerns.

In my mind though, this was for a good reason, which brings me to my 3rd point of familiarity and respect. There have been a few times where I have been personally offended by assumptions and statements made by people I know who didn’t bother to respect our relationship by seeking clarification directly before making public statements/posts which in my mind were inaccurate. I had mistakenly thought that Josh understood my intentions here and what we were working to accomplish with SMC, which can broadly be thought of as trying to ensure we use this social medium properly for the positive benefit of us individually and collectively. So when someone published what I perceived as an attacking post instead of asking me for clarification personally first (he does follow me on Twitter despite my original mistake in thinking he doesn’t), it really hit my hot button. As I clearly hit Josh’s when I made another statement on Twitter, and for which I again apologize for upsetting you Josh. Hopefully you can see that there was a point to it here that I was trying to make, one which is clearly taking more then 140 characters to explain.

This of course brings up a larger question of responsibility, my fourth point. We have been given a great power in freedom of speech with these social media tools, and of course in the use of that freedom people are free to do with it as they please and we have little control over it, if any at all (at least in this country). This is why it is so important that those of us, like Josh and myself, have a responsibility to use the power of this medium responsibly. We have a responsibility to not just pass judgement in a hastily formed opinion that could cause harm to others (personal, professional, or otherwise). Journalists have this responsibility to the truth hammered into them from their very early days of ‘J’ school, and by all their editor/mentors over the years. It is a tradition passed on from master to apprentice and it is missing from the ‘art of blogging’ to such a degree that I do think it is one of the biggest issues we face. The behaviour we choose to model for those who follow us will determine what society as a whole thinks is the difference between right and wrong – if we choose to use inflamatory language to draw more attention to our hastily formed opinions which may not be based on all the facts, we are setting a bad example.

In my mind, this is made an even more egregious mistake when such snap judgements are formed about people or situations to which we have direct access to the people involved. It amazes me to think about how many times someone I know has written something that was simply not correct, when a simple email, direct message or phone call could provide clarification about their concerns…

As I am getting rather long and I am afraid people will misconstrue my final point, I won’t dive too deep into why ethnocentrism is an important matter to discuss here, but let me briefly talk about the relevant analogy I am trying to make. In this case, the idea of technocentrism is perhaps more important to discuss. It has its roots in the same general principles of ethnocentrism – the distrust/dislike of people who are not like us and a feeling of superiority – but it is perhaps more divisive in our society today then many realize. As part of my regular speeches I often talk of the chasm of mistrust between technology and marketing folks as being responsible for trillions of dollars of lost value in the economy. I mean it, and I wish I could fund a study to prove it – the number might be even bigger.

The challenge here is that oftentimes when a technologist sees someone in a suit, or with a particular title, or using some of those ‘marketing words’, many will make a snap judgement that this person is not to be trusted. Online, we make similar snap judgments based on the words and writing styles people use. In the situation with Josh Bancroft’s dislike of Social Media Club’s announcement, it had to do with a particular paragraph of text that to him made it sound like we had ‘sold out’ and gone ‘corporate’.

To be clear, I am not perfect here myself. The only reason I know about this or have thought about it is because I have made the same sort of mistakes and faced the same issues personally. Had I not felt the pain that such thinking and behaviour has wrought, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons myself. In fact, for many of these points, I still make the same mistakes, but I am quick to admit when I am wrong or when I realize I should have responded differently.

Why invest so many words in trying to explain this situation? It is not for my sake or for Josh’s, but rather for all of our benefit. If we don’t learn how to live in this era of conversation with one another better, all of the command and control hierarchy people in institutions who don’t want us talking to one another will win the day. This is one of the few places where the group that plays Amanda Chapel is right – seeing the world as it is rather than how it could be – there is little reason why corporations based on the principles of profit and growth should risk their existence by allowing an individual to express a hastily formed opinion or speak out of turn when we are not thinking more conscientiously about what we are saying and how it will be perceived. If we are to really have conversations with companies, and with each other, openly and freely, we have to learn how to talk with one another better. We need to accept responsibility for our actions and our speech.

In short, we need to apply good intentions, stop making assumptions, respect one another regardless of our differing opinions, stop judging books by their covers and embrace the fact that we are all responsible for the communities in which we live.

If we can’t get by these problems as a society and start to move in the direction of open and respectful conversation, we won’t ever realize our full potential or live in the sort of world I hope and pray we can create.


Photo by CC_Chapman under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license.

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It’s About Conversation, Not Marketing

After reading The problem with ‘conversational marketing’ I was inspired to express my views on the importance of conversation and the evolution of marketing.

Let’s be clear, the real problem with conversational marketing (other than the God awful term itself) is the ‘marketing’, not the conversation. The human problem with many traditional marketing practices is that they are exploitative in nature, selling/hyping goods and services in the market that are of dubious value, and only benefit those doing the selling. Of course this is not the case with the majority of marketing or marketers, but the extent to which a few bad intentioned actors can create a stereotype that is harmful to an entire group of people is quite stunning.

The gist of the article is correct that product and experience are the most important aspects of the business by providing goods and services to the market that create profits and satisfaction. I wrote about this after our awesome SxSW panel earlier this year in a post called The Golden Rules of Marketing. If you are more interested in the importance of great products as the first step to great marketing, listen to the podcast of the Self Replicating Awesomness session.

My problem is with the article’s dismissal of the importance of conversation over messaging to create understanding. It demonstrates how badly a few buzzword spewing charlatans can hurt the efforts towards transformation across an industry (communications in this case).

As I have demonstrated in unplanned exchanges in numerous workshops I have facilitated over the past year, it is very easy for people to mean the same thing, use different words to describe it and have an argument resulting from their different viewpoints. Conversation in this case, creates understanding, bridging cultures and differences in the use of language – something that a simple published statement or headline (aka message) can not do if no one is able to be engaged, listening and responding.

When those of us who understand what is happening say the words ‘listen and respond’, we are not limiting ourselves to the words we say back to someone after listening. We are talking about what we DO as a result of HEARING them as well as what we say. By listening, and truly hearing what is said, we are also showing that we are paying attention – it speaks volumes about the true intentions of our actions in the market place.

The post’s author sees the biggest proof of the failure of conversational marketing in a 2007 study from 9 months prior to their post:

According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, Dell was at the bottom of the pack in 2007 and actually lost 5 percentage points from the previous year

The author is correct in noting that it is much more difficult to provide a product that meets the market’s needs/expectations then it is to talk with them. Duh! The point isn’t so much that they are talking together, but what they do as a result. To expect conversations between representatives of a company and the market to turn around the culture and operational systems of that company within a matter of hours or days is of course impractical. These things take time. We are all human, people misunderstand, and of course, people make new mistakes which need to be understood and corrected all the time.

The article goes on to further state:

As such, companies should invest first and foremost in making sure that they do a good job of providing consumers with the products and services they want and need.

But of course, in order to understand what products they want, the companies need to listen to them FIRST, deliver the goods, listen to them again, change, deliver the goods again with improvements and so on. This quote shows how backwards the thinking is – companies need to do more up front to understand the needs of the market (traditionally thought of as research, which is of course a form of a conversation) before they invest in producing the goods.

The post goes on to say:

I would also point out what may seem counterintuitive to conversationalists – the fact that sometimes silence is the best indicator of consumer satisfaction.

Apparently, the author – Drama 2.0 – hasn’t read one of Kathy Sierra’s best blog posts called Be Brave or Go Home, which explains why customer silence is not golden if your company lives in the zone of mediocrity. Nor have they read Ken Blanchards book called Raving Fans, nor do they understand the importance and impact of Word of Mouth.

The thing is, that if I buy a computer from Dell (and I am a Mac guy, so the chances are slim), I hope I don’t have to talk to Richard Binhammer about a problem, but he hopes I talk to him about how much I love it. Either way, because I know that they are listening, as humans do to one another, I know that he will help to fix any problems. I know that their intentions are to serve us with better products and that sometimes shit happens. If the intention is made clear that they are not a faceless corporation here to take my money and harm me by selling me bad products/services, I would rather buy from them then anyone else.

This is our philosophy at The Conversation Group, and the main purpose we came together as an agency – to help more companies embrace the spirit of conversation with markets and to move beyond marketing by discovering, engaging and serving their markets in a more respectful and effective way.

Thanks to Rebecca Caroe from Creative Agency Secrets who pointed out this article called The problem with ‘conversational marketing’. (disclosure: two of the subjects of that post, Richard Binhammer and Shel Israel are friends) This is something I was writing about last summer in the post entitled, Stop the Insanity, Don’t Call it Conversational Marketing, and more recently in response to a Doc Searls post (keep getting better Doc, we’re with you) called Clues vs. Trains.

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