Archive for the ‘crush it’ Category

"You need this?"


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Perhaps one of the biggest irritants to any entrepreneur is the legal and technical red tape which larger companies can fly through, but which small business can easily trip over. It can slow your pace just seeing it up ahead. It can bring you to stop entirely and rethink everything you’d planned. It can even back you down if you succumb to the fear of what is entailed.

I learned recently how red tape can slow us down just enough to show us what we need to work on. It made me think how I sped through certain parts of a great plan and didn’t pay enough attention to crucial strategy areas. I got to the point of disillusionment, and then the next morning…I was sitting at my desk feeling grateful for the opportunity to save my idea. And I owed it all to the barriers that I had come up against by rethinking what I was trying to accomplish and how it would play out.

Red tape is scary for an entrepreneur who doesn’t have loads of capital on hand to throw at it. But red tape can actually cause us to rethink what we’re doing to the point of re-examining all the holes in our plans. It can actually show us how we’ve rushed over certain parts in our giddy excitement and neglected crucial legal, strategic and even ethical issues (which directly influence our brand down the line–and us, ourselves). In short, red tape is in reality like that person at the 8-K marker of the 10K race holding the water, asking you with a gesture “You need this?” Maybe you do need it for the last 2 K ahead before the finish line. An experienced runner might be tempted to think “It will only weaken my resolve, upset my body’s stride” but that stride may be in a very different condition 1 K down the line without a refresher in critical fluids to muscles that are nearly cashed.

We all need to refresh our outlook on what we’re doing from time to time. Red tape is, in the end, just a last ditch opportunity to do just that, before we go in too deep to back out. Red tape is…good?

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Congratulations for checking-in!

Congratulations for checking-in!

Just days ago, I wrote a piece on how social media brands need more user-perceived and business-perceived depth to become truly sustainable. About that day, Ben Parr (whom I read a lot, btw) wrote a piece on Mashable¬†on how FourSquare’s growth is “not slowing down”. Of course, nobody on this blog implied that it was, and nobody else that I saw on trending blog posts that day was suggesting that it was slowing down in terms of growth, only that fewer and fewer of the initial “elite” 4Sq¬†users are tweeting their locations and badge-earning “out loud” like they once did, anymore. And that’s still true. Are these articles¬†propping FourSquare’s relevance a mere¬†coincidence? Well maybe, but knowing how keyword searches on social media platforms work for brand managers and how those brand managers communicate to major medium voices, yeah it’s probably not a conincidence.¬†I’m flattered to think that my little blog got noticed, if only hurriedly skimmed in all liklihood, as part of the analysis of the noise on the horizon of FourSquare’s brand consciousness. Or maybe it’s just due dilligence on the part of these two fine journalists. Like I said, I’m a fan of both. At any rate, let’s get to it…¬†

The main critiques that myself and one or two others advanced in my last post on FourSquare, was that there is ennui afoot and it has to do with the “game”, the opportunities for abuse and the lack of forward-looking innovation to maintain the excitement. The game is tedious unless you’re the one doing it and you’re¬†out sight-seeing or flitting about town, and even then, the numbers on how many do not elect to check-in or attach a true identity to their check-ins has not been publically disclosed, if it is even being tracked at all. The onlookers don’t care about your badges, so¬†obnoxious tweeting of check-ins via Twitter¬†won’t last much longer. It’s already almost stopped completely!¬†¬†

And of course, the final critique is on how the limited potential for businesses is not being expanded on nearly enough to help brands justify spending money to enact internal programs that work with 4Sq. Magically, just today an article was posted by the lovely Jennifer Van Grove (again, someone I read and respect a lot on Mashable) with the title How 5 Brands Are Mastering the Game of Foursquare. It illustrates how 5 companies/brands are taking advantage of the badges to help foster knowledge about cities like New York and more notably Chicago.¬†Badge-earning is¬†also being used by Las Vegas venues to better serve cutomers¬†(the ubiquitous freebies”¬†and special attention that FourSquare customers in exchange for patronage and as a preventative against for looming the threat of customer complaints and retaliation via 4Sq). Starbucks with its internal QA program and Lucky Magazine are also fine uses of FourSquare along these lines. The only problem is…we¬†already generally know about these kinds of benefits to businesses and customers¬†for using FourSquare. The sole exception might be the story of Chicago and the promotion of historical tourism. That is innovative and truly embraces the community-at-large within Chicago, not just for one or a handfull¬†of businesses. Success stories aside, there remain a lot of businesses who fid¬†the thought of FourSquare users more troublesome than titilating. Take, for instance, big chain store with lots of traffic and too many understandbale¬†opportunities for failed customer experiences (Wal-mart comes to mind).¬†¬†

All that aside, there remain some¬†very salient critiques forming about what’s not happening yet on FourSquare: the persistant¬†lack of a universally-adopted¬†FourSquare points system and¬†the lack of a diversity of models (for now, it’s “checking in” and getting special treatment, maybe, or points, if it’s the one or two businesses using FourSquare for an internal promotion campaign).¬†And not¬†everyone shops in person. For instance, I’d just about rather be punched rather hard in the face than go shopping for clothing in person at the mall. I shop online if at all possible to avoid standing aroud for hours on end. I learn my size for each store I shop from, and then I do¬†that unpleasant business in just minutes, rather than via hours and hours of driving, walking, and standing in lines.¬†Unless it’s food, then I go local. I’m not all that unique in my shopping habits, just a better planner and time manager than many who really just want to go outside for a bit. And hey, who doesn’t? Also, I get the going out. I go out, too. Most of us do sometime. But I feel pretty weird about whipping out the cell phone and enduring the “oh, you’re checking in, now,¬†aha…” looks. I’ve got to confess I’ve never done that. Don’t plan on it. If, however, FourSquare can devise a way to beep me in inconspicuously, nobody’s going to object to that and us private types won’t be “living out loud” to our own chagrin.¬†¬†

Why am I pointing out these weaknesses? Not because I want FourSquare to fail. I don’t. I’m a marketer who wants to be able to promote this form of mobile opportunity with more confidence to clients. I think there is lots of opportunity for expanding the model to be more inclusive of things people actually want to do with a geo-targeted mobile app. The point is that…it’s just not happening yet. One, five or even 10 companies doing a rewards program isn’t going to revolutionize how people shop. It will take a universal rewards program with some real clout to get everyone on board. And until there are additional options beyond just “check-in”, it’s got a ways to go before my mother is going to use FourSquare. And if my mother doesn’t use it, let’s face it, the majority of shoppers are not being effectively roped in, not even in theory. [tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

Building Presence = Building True  Community

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This is a tiny voice in the wind that’s gonna be heard in the end.

I’ve been thinking about social media and trust a lot lately. Not getting to attend SXSW Interactive this year made me watch the events there vicariously and start to ponder the meaning of it all. I saw Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter, get slammed for being boring, for not engaging the audience with meaningful content in his keynote event–people AT the event were texting it to their Twitter accounts, his own company’s application! I saw how human and sometimes even completely LOST people at SXSW seemed to be when it came to what was happening to them. I kind of appreciated it. It made more sense of everything that’s currently wrong with social media for me.

This all got me to thinking about the lingering delusions that the social media “elite” seems to have going, and I came up with a solution that seems to me the only way I care to get behind. If it’s social media, then why do so many of the people who “lead” it seem to be so…unsociable? I watch as I and tons of others approach these unapproachable leaders of the social, or step on their toes by seeking their precious approval. Makes any sense whatsoever? It’s one thing when people are objectifying you as…whatever, but these were basically all people just trying to engage the “social media” leader, to engage a supposed authority. Hmmm…

I recently wrote a more lengthy and detailed “how-to” on setting up a social media presence quickly and painlessly, but the how is kind of easy compared to the WHY. So now I’d like to lay out my own thoughts on social media strategy and what it means to “build trust”.

What does “trust” even mean on the internet–or marketing? Why should we worry about trust if the goal is to sell? In short, because the goal of selling is too greedy-hearted to make the incredibly long haul to true success. Okay, maybe this point is easy. But how does one “give up” selling?

Companies do not live. People live. And people work in companies. When the company hits an iceberg, hopefully the people exit the ship and have somewhere good and warm to go. Hopefully they’ll pull together and share resources, take care of each other. When a ship hits an iceberg, people remember what’s important. Well, when a company is riding high on the waves, shouldn’t we still keep people firmly in focus? Aren’t people the point ALL the time? So why doesn’t it feel that way in the cold shadow of some of the more prominent Twitterers, for instance? Are cliques killing the democratic “social web” dream? Individual reps on Twitter are the company, after all. I notice more and more the strategy here, and it’s basically something along the lines of “talk only to those who can make me/my organization shine more.” I GUESS that’s a version of being social, but it’s not exactly the way I want to be social…

In working with clients who sell all kinds of things and services, it has become clear that the ones who break new ground are the ones who envision themselves from another perspective. The way they become engaging is by demonstrating an appreciation for community. They all “gave” to some extent and the feeling of receiving “so much” and without any sales pressure is what didn’t sell everyone, but is what did sell more than they previously sold. I saw it. I helped measure it in some cases.

If you’re a celebrity, let’s face it, you’re here to rally fans, but regardless of who you are or what you do, you’ll need something to engage people with if you’re going to use tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and say Digg or Buzz as a rallying point for your social media front. Engagement is in the final analysis, about giving, building community. Building social media presence should therefore really be an act of building rapport and  community.

I propose that community is the only way to love what you do and make it work. Moreover, I propose that community-at-large is the only kind of community worth having in the end, because it has no antithesis, no ultimate opposition, no counter-productive tendencies. Community absorbs minor passing frictions. Community is a church of good values for the sake of good values. I propose not only that community is the point, but that you have to start somewhere, in a smaller community perhaps that will allow you to work as if it’s for everyone, until the day that you stop questioning whether or not what you do is for the good of everyone. I propose that if you can’t see where you fit into the communities that exist around you, then you need to take a step back and reflect on what community means to you. Why do anything where it’s “me against them” or even “us against them” or even “us against that guy over there”? The only kind of community that feels right is the end is the kind that doesn’t omit anyone. When you can see your place in a potential community-at-large situation, then you can help build or even create the kind of meaningful relationships you need to succeed at being a whatever-you-wanna-call-it.

Representing the values of being a good member of the community is going to be my argument for how to conduct the building of trust in the new media arena. Giving what’s needed when its needed most, even if it’s just…space. Demonstrating a lack of greed and an abundance of good intention. And the only way to demonstrate all that…is to go ahead and become it, not just to say it, but to do.

I recommend that companies practice building social media presence by rethinking what they’re actually doing in the first place. By focusing on making their event horizon an engagement with the community-at-large in terms of giving to the community-at-large. I want them to FORGET to take credit and get wrapped up in the giving part. I mean, think about it. Don’t we all secretly wish that all CEOs were evangelists for community-at-large?

This…community-at-large…is the only place where you’ll come to see your role in other people’s lives (including customers and clients) and begin to develop a conversation with them, and with what was formerly your “target audience.” This is where social media and your communications can actually get fun and start to become more like mingling at a cozy gathering of people doing more than quoting famous people and smiling through their teeth with one finger on the “SELL!” button.

THE ROBOT FACTOR

Malfunctioning Eddie, the Robot Car Salesman: "At these prices, I must be malfunctioning!"

Social media marketing is remarkably often cold and calculated, stiff–alligator smiles. People know PR when they see it. PR always seems to come off as “we are targeting, conditioning, branding, or otherwise doing various stuff to you”. It may fly in the moment, but people recall, process, grow, mature past such tactics. What we should be doing is communicating with and representing community values of sharing and giving for the sake of sharing and giving. This is where people are happiest and it’s how reputations have always really been made, including the reputations of good companies. If you’re an information-hawker, becoming a socializing giver of great info, innovation, inspiration (how about your own!) and value will in the end make your public image a much more profitable asset–because it’s a reality behind the image.

WHAT COMES OF BEING HUMAN

In the end, community buoys up the good people, and lets the not-so-good rot in their own undoing. People reciprocate kindness, generosity and demonstrated community values. Trust is something basic and elementary built upon experience. It’s not diffcult to be a member of a community. It’s the easiest thing. What’s difficult is holding on to the idea that you are somehow completely separate from all of these “others”. What a herculean act of will THAT is.
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