Archive for the ‘trust’ Category

Consistent rewards programs pay off in consistent customer loyalty.

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

I’ve previously commented that FourSquare hasn’t managed to become enough of a player in the rewards programs of major chains, leaving the ground-breaking application a little on the flat side of a robust loyalty-program enhancement. Well, finally, a major consumer-frequented chain has instituted something substantial in the way of FourSquare promotions…. Starbucks reportedly is now officially turning their FourSquare loyalty program into a bonafied, dividend-paying rewards system (albeit on “trial” basis) to provide actual guaranteed loyalty program rewards to those who frequent the coffee-house chain frequently enough to become “Mayor”.

While the program expuires on June 21st, both FourSquare and Starbucks reportedly think it could easily be extended thereafter. Is this the future of FourSquare? I think that this is the kind of use FourSquare needs to institute (read quickly institute) on it’s own to become a salable offering, or an IPO able to generate substantial sales of shares in the near future. Certainly it’s a step in the right direction for all involved, including the customers of Starbucks and the users of FourSquare. Kudos to Starbucks for taking the lead here. (Hint to FourSquare: shouldn’t you really have created a universal and fully customizable retailer loyalty program by now that retailers could opt into? And isn’t that a regrettable missed opportunity for FourSquare?).

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Call me shy I guess. Well, I’m not shy, but I am somewhat private. The day I went up to a room full of 70+ Chinese college students and began to give my first class on business English, it became harder and harder for me not to speak up whenever I have something to say. But in all honestly, I’m still a shy guy. Introverted as all heck! It’s a wonder I can muster the courage to blog. But when I take up something I believe in, that’s when it changes. I don’t call it passion, I call it doing what I believe in. To me, it’s quite an important difference.

Lots of people demonstrate their social behavior with FollowFriday (#FF) each Friday. I frequently am on the receiving end either for my personal or my business Twitter profile. Yet I never do #FF or even thank people as a rule for a simple RT. Was I raised in a barn? Does that rhetorical question even work here?….No seriously, am I just dense-headed? Maybe, but here’s how I do thank people for RTs:

1) Return the favor of being Retweeted by retweeting something important to that person, usually when it matters most to them

Whether it’s a promotion of a product or an event, or just supporting someone when they’re having a rough day or a sweet victory, I like to support people by retweeting them if they’ve done so for me. Sometimes I walk up to people and just start talking to them, or I retweet them without knowing anything else about them, because I think the tweet or the link speaks for itself, and I generally try to give credit where credit is due.

2) Talk up people I like and think are great in public tweets

Whether or not I even know you! Most shy people don’t do that!

3) Follow almost anyone who follows me if they are not a spammy profile

Now, not only do I not hold it against anyone for doing the friendly #FF thing, and I am enormously grateful that people are thinking of me, regardless of whether or not it actually helps anyone’s following. That’s not to say that I have noticed a discernible difference yet, personally, but maybe that’ll change. I do know that I never have followed anyone just because I see a #FF hash tag next to a list of names, even if the person is someone I like and even somewhat respect. Are other people the same as me? Probably not. That’s just me.

That said, I DO think that it’s very important to be social back to people who are social and friendly to you, in whatever way you are most comfortable with. It may not come up today, or tomorrow, but sooner or later you run into everyone twice, even more, especially when you think “oh I’ll never see them again!”. That’s when you are applying for a job or some membership and that person is your pivotal contact. That’s just how life is. And though it’s kind of the wrong reason to be good to people, it’s at least a pragmatic reason for those who feel that being good is “Pollyanna” or whatever. And if it’s not how other people do it, don’t let that stop you rom expressing yourself. Just try not to embarrass anyone. At the end of the day, there is nothing less sociable than humiliating someone (or even just trying to). YOu may not think so, but people remember this behavior, and when it’s your time, they really remember it.

The most important thing on Twitter is just to be authentically you! So if you like #FF or some other trend, don’t do as I do, do as you like! The one thing I can’t stand is the Twitter Nazis who like to say that everyone’s style must be the same. It really shouldn’t be. Just don’t (please) get mad at me if I don’t thank you for a RT or do the Follow Friday bit. It’s not my style, but I do remember a good turn, believe me. I’ve definitely got your number.

I normally will turn Twitter on after lunch. I’m busy during the morning with things that require my utmost attention: projects, clients, partners, lots of things poppin’. So after lunch, I like to feel like I’m riding the tail end of the day at that point. Doesn’t everyone? Unfortunately it’s not always the case, but that’s what I try for. It keeps me on track and sane. Along the way I add more followers (by hand, typically): potential prospects, potential partners, or just really cool companies and people that turn my gears.

Some typical things I would normally do on Twitter is check in with people I follow, post promotions for my business via casual interaction, blog post links, rally local followers in Houston area, or even by topic. When people tweet 500 times in a day, they often don’t get anything for it. Some days I don’t tweet at all. I tweet maybe, at most, 10 times per day, often less. Any more and I’d be rambling and wasting people’s time, or avoiding crucial work on my schedule. I know some people who post about 25, 50, even 100+ times a day on average. Some of us have reasons to tweet that often, most of us probably don’t. Everyone’s different.

Personally, I always wonder how anyone tweets 50 or more times a day if they are employed (even by self). That seems a lot of chitchat and time off the clock. Some people are mainly interested in using social media for socializing, for in-between moments, or to remark how they felt at key points in the lives, for posterity. That’s all perfectly valid. I mainly use it for business. I just happen to love running businesses, making them better, finding ways to do something better than before, usually pertaining to creating or promoting content on the web.

It has occurred to me that many start-up ventures are using Twitter either as “sleepers”, you know: tweeting nothing and racking up followers via follower software, others follow the grape-vine approach, using it to tweet up events and ping people for non-committal engagement. Many individuals use it for pure gossip, or to make “intimate” asides to a global audience about coworkers, some even going so far as to snap photos of total strangers that they just don’t like the look of, and tweeting something f’ed up about the person, posting it toot suite. I guess there is a Twitter use for every type of person out there. And there should be. It’s a tool that represents something different to everybody, for good or ill.

Okay, so now I’m curious. What do you use Twitter for? Go ahead and fill me in via the comments on this post.

...Twingle, cowboy! [tweetmeme=”MarkBrimm”]
What’s twingling? It’s mingling on Twitter. Lots of people are tweeting on Twitter these days. And lots are NOT, even though they have an account. The reason? Stage fright, lack of a feeling for the medium, who knows.

It’s bad enough if you’re not an internet person, but many are downright intimidated by a social media platform like Twitter, where everything is instant–and who can blame them? Here’s a few tips that should get even the most bashful Twitterer up and throwing down tweets in no time…

Tweeting is supposed to be a way to network professionally one second and personally the next without batting an eye. Casual exchanges are what Twitter are all about. If you’re natural and off the cuff, people trust that you’re not reading from a script, which would make you a “bot” (a robot, or a program, usually selling insurance, porn…if you’ve ever been in a chat room or gotten spam emails, surely you get what I’m saying here). Tweet as if your grandmother or boss might read it, but with enough of the real you that you could make people laugh and get a feeling for the real you just from reading your updates.

Next, you’ll want to avoid repeating yourself. This is crucial if you have something to promote. It’s okay to promote your junk several times a week, but a daily grind of that, as Chris Brogan has said elsewhere, makes you “that guy” and you don’t want to be “that guy”, right? To avoid overkill, restrict yourself to a few tweets a week that blatantly promote your stuff, unless you can tie it into a blog post that has value other than just to sell something. And try to avoid copying and pasting a previous tweet…you need to be original in each tweet. Forget about the possible SEO implications in spamming people repeatedly with the same exact message and accompanying product link, think of your followers. You’re building trust, remember? Trust on Twitter means likable and (hopefully) a source on your topic that’s worth hearing.

This next bit is for businesses. Listen to me carefully: …give stuff away.

That’s right. Twitter is the place to give it away…now! Before someone else beats you to it. It can be anything from blog posts to PDF reports and ebooks to discounts on what you sell, freebies, contests, branded t-shirts and coffee mugs–whatever you think makes sense to walk someone down the purchasing aisle. But keep it real. Even if you’re doing business on Twitter, it should be fun and natural, like an in-person interaction.Since you’re now on your business soapbox, use hashtags or goodness sake! ( example: #CelticsTickets ) Hashtags are a way of notifying Twitter applications that someone is talking about that thing you want to promote, and directs them there. This can work for topics and whatever. It needn’t be business-related, and probably shouldn’t be as a rule, just to avoid being “that guy“.

The thing about social media is that its social, first and foremost. Mingle, add the people you connect well with (don’t bother to ask them first), network, joke, but you may want to keep it PG-13 if you’re smart. You never know who’s watching.

Once you get your legs, you may want to use monitoring tools like HootSuite to help you monitor not only who’s talking to you, but who’s saying what about you or your brand. Respond immediately and directly and try to keep your customers or prospects (or friends) engaged and happy with your company/you. The flip side of this is to prevent PR flubs that could really cost a big company lots of headaches! Friend-wise, the stakes might also be high if people are using twitter to connect family or friends and you’re in the clan.

People who more or less follow these guidelines will naturally get more followers, even without all the software or careful monitoring of their following tactics (which are all perfectly well and good and reasonable). Once you have the hang of it, check out my article on how to go in depth by master some wise tweeting habits.

Still here? Get out there and twingle, cowboy! [tweetmeme=”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.
[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

Moms Make Excellent Linchpins

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I’ve been noticing more and more all around me lately on how Mompreneurs got game. I’ve found myself writing about, to and for them. Everywhere you look, they’re doing it up right. They latch onto social media best practices fast, are eager to learn, and most often (in my experience) lack the automatic ego us guys, I’m afraid, have a very hard time overcoming. Just posted a nice little ditty on something I call “Twitter SEO” (how Twitter impacts SEO efforts, not on how to make spam on Twitter, and not addressing all of the more social aspects SMO concerns per se, though many of them, in fact. See the BizyMoms.com SEO for Twitter post if you’re interested).

Mompreneurs network well on Twitter, so it just seems right to talk about them today. I will be looking for ways to empower this broad section of small businesses every chance I get, because I think the innovative businesses of tomorrow come from duct tape marketing ideas created by small business. I hope you will join me in this. [tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

Where's the ball?

Doesn't everybody already assume that you're going to do something with the ball?

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

 

It seems a small thing. The little URL that Twitter gives you in your profile. Many simply don’t have a URL to promote. Or maybe some think it’s unseemly to do so. But when you think on it, it’s the only link to the rest of the you that’s waiting for your followers, and especially your growing fans. If you don’t have a URL, you’re probably not focused enough on what you’re doing on Twitter.

 

People use Twitter for many reasons, one of which is pure socializing. I get that, but it’s not a long-term strategy. No one is purely a social being. We need to eat, earn a living, make plans. No one expects  you to be one-dimensional. Having something to share, even if you’re not selling anything, is a crucial part of your Twitter profile. It tells people “there’s more here if you ‘d like to go there.” Sooner or later, there are going to be people who want to go deeper into “you”. I try not to have a profile that doesn’t have a purpose other than being social.

There is really just one good way to post your Twitter profile URL: in as short a number of characters as possible, preferably with your brand right up front, preferably without a “www’ getting in the way. If your domain name is simply too long to be seen at a glance in the profile, then use a shortened version. What’s more, you should pick a domain that is focused on one particular type of activity, or at least make sure your URL matches the nature of the tweets for that profile.
  

I came to realize early on that without a clearly defined purpose, a Twitter profile simply falls flat in the scheme of things. A URL is a clearly defined way to introduce that purpose, even if it’s not something you’re trying to shout at the top of your lungs. Just sayin’? [tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]