If the witches and wizards in Harry Potter had a magazine, it would probably look a lot like Sir Richard Branson’s new Project. The iPad-only magazine brings a science fiction level of interactivity to a once inanimate medium. Opening the inaugural issue on your iPad, a well-designed, seemingly traditional magazine cover comes to life (see video below).
From there on, every page turn (or swipe) reveals a surprising new interactivity. An article on upcoming cable TV series allows you to watch previews of each show. While reading about an innovative French record label, you can simply tap a band’s photo to listen to a sample music track. Looking for things to do in Tokyo? Project not only gives you insiders’ tips on some of the best locations, it takes you on a 3D walking tour of the city to get there. Even Project’s only advertisement, for Lexus, has slick functionality.
A concept like this can’t survive on flashy programming alone. This issue provides satisfying content, access to updated and current information, and a promise of a second issue before Christmas. Project is available for download from iTunes app store for free. You then can purchase the issue for $2.99, which will be billed to your iTunes account.
Here are a few books that have helped shape my approach to word of mouth marketing. I’d recommend them not just to marketers, but anyone looking to approach their business in new ways, particularly non-profits (which always need to find ways to do less with more).
In early May of this year it rained in Tennessee. A lot. The record-breaking rain devastated the area and claimed 21 lives in the state. Businesses and homes were damaged and closed due to flooding, including the historic Grand Ole Opry. Right next door, Opry Mills Mall was underwater in every one of its 1.2 million square feet. Closed to rebuild, the mall needed a way to stay connected with its customers and evangelists until it can open its doors again.
A visit to the mall’s Web site encourages visitors to stay connected through its Facebook page, promising progress reports on the reconstruction. Lynn Kittel, Opry Mills’ Director of Marketing, turned to the social networking site as a way to keep in touch with customers, and even she has been pleasantly surprised with the response. “People usually just think of a mall as bricks and mortar,” she told me on a recent phone conversation, “but this experience with Facebook reinforces that it is so much more than that.” Kittel explains that many of their visitors have emotional connections to the mall and use the page to express how much they miss being able to visit.
Before the flood, Opry Mills had around 1,400 followers on Facebook. That number has swelled to 8,476 (and counting) as of the posting of this blog. Fans post questions and comments regularly, asking which stores will return, requesting photos of their favorite stores, and seeking construction updates and timelines. Kittel responds promptly and always honestly, “We’ll tell you the truth. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll find out and get back to you.” She’s also been able to combat rumors and misinformation (including a story that piranhas had escaped from an indoor aquarium and were “running amuck in the mall”). She doesn’t delete the infrequent negative comment; in fact, she says that “most of the time, our other friends on the page come to our defense in full force.”
The mall posts videos and pictures of the destruction and reconstruction, generating enthusiastic responses such as: “Awww…makes me miss it so much” and “I might have a few tears of joy over this!!” The posts are never written in “marketing-speak,” and often have a touch of humor. Responses to questions and concerns are compassionate and personal.
Kittel understands intuitively what I constantly preach: Social media is not about “marketing,” but about building relationships, listening and responding. Opry Mills wants to keep its fans engaged with the process, and even solicits input from Facebook followers on what they would like the mall to become as they rebuild. “One of our posts that received the most responses was when I asked what kinds of restaurants they wanted in the food court.” By doing this, Opry Mills invites its base to take a vested interest in the mall; in turn, they will take more interest in its success and likely be more active to share items from or about the mall, and more responsive to specific requests from the mall to help spread the word. I’m anxious to see what impact Kittel’s social media outreach has on the success of the mall, and I look forward to following the grand reopening on Facebook.
A recent post on the Opry Mills’ Facebook page posed this question: “What weighs 4,000 pounds and had to be loaded into the mall with a helicopter?” You’ll have to visit their page for the answer.
Disclosure: My brother is an executive with Simon Properties, overseeing all of the Mills Malls. However, that’s simply the reason Opry Mills’ Facebook page was on my radar, and not why I’m using it as an example.
As the Mayor of 25 places nationwide, I think I’ve earned the right to question the value of foursquare. As someone who uses social media quite often as a tool to help clients generate word of mouth, I feel it is my responsibility to engage in and understand new media (especially when it was touted as being the next “mainstream hit”). I started using foursquare seven months ago, hoping to be ahead of the curve when it caught on. I’ve been using it pretty diligently, but I’m still not sold on its significance.
Recently, I found that a good friend of mine was on my heels in the week’s foursquare points race (this was the first time anyone had come close to my points total). I let her know that I felt her creeping up behind me, and that I was planning to step up my game to beat her. She replied that she was up to the challenge and even went on to mock the fact that my being Mayor of “Bed, Bath, & Beyond” ought to deprive me of my man card. The exchange went back and forth for a while about our competition on foursquare. Here’s the important part… the entire exchange was conducted via text message, and not through any social feature provided by foursquare.
And, therein lies my biggest problem with the site. It seems to fall under the category of “Social Media,” but there’s almost nothing social about it. There’s no way to actually interact with each other, short of looking up where a friend is at that moment and immediately going to the same venue (Can you say restraining order?). It is all about ME, ME, ME! As I’ve written time and again on this blog, social media should be about relationships and conversation, meaning not only talking, but listening and responding too. It should be about US, US, US!
Now, let me point out a few caveats to my dismay about foursquare. First, I live in Phoenix, a city where it hasn’t caught on and isn’t used as widely (seriously, I only checked in at “Bed, Bath, & Beyond” a couple of times, I swear). In New York and San Francisco, for example, I hear it is much more common. Also, I do see value for those marketing products (particularly retail). Foursquare allows you to engage with potential customers when they are geographically near, and make them an offer right on the spot to either draw them in from a location nearby or to encourage a purchase while they are there. Plus, the possibility of becoming the Mayor of a venue (for having checked in at that location more than anyone else) encourages repeat traffic.
As a marketer, I feel like, after 7 months, I get it. I don’t need to test or explore it any further. If a client asks me about foursquare and how it could be useful to their organization, I can intelligently explain the uses and benefits. As a person who uses social media as a way to connect, however, I’m completely bored with foursquare. So, I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m not sure if I’ll come back, but if I do it will be because of changes that make it more social and unique from experiences I can get from any other site.
Last night, my girlfriend and I decided to go to Sauce, the great informal pizza place from Fox Restaurant Concepts with a handful of locations around Phoenix. The closest one is about 15 minutes away at 7th Street and Glendale (Hey, Fox RC, Central Phoenix needs a Sauce!), so we headed over ready to eat. When we arrived, I looked in the storefront and found all the furniture moved to one side and the restaurant looking empty of all but a smattering of employees working to finish a remodel. A couple of them noticed our sad and hungry faces as they were walking back in.
They stopped and chatted with us and explained that they had been closed a few days to polish the space a bit, and reminded us of some of the other locations we could go to. All of them were in another direction from home, so we were still undecided and disappointed. “I’ll tell you what,” one said. “Head over to the Scottsdale Waterfront location, I’ll call and tell them you’re coming, and I’ll buy your dinner.” He handed me his card, and then Mike G., Vice President of Operations – Fast Casual for Fox Restaurant Concepts, took us in to show off all of the changes they made in the remodel. When we got to Scottsdale, they were expecting us, and our dinner was on the house.
Now, there are reasons that Fox Restaurant Concepts seems to be the only Arizona business to grow in the last few years. I’m sure one of the biggest is that they have fostered a corporate culture that values the customer, and whether it’s their intention or not, that mentality is the single best tool for generating positive word of mouth. Their food, of course, is top notch, and their array of restaurant concepts is diverse and always appealing, which are both good reasons to tell your friends. But, give a customer a good experience, and he or she will almost always tell their friends.
Of course, it’s unlikely that Mike was instructed by his marketing department to offer visitors to the closed store a free meal in the event that they would post a blog about the experience. He just did it because he and his employer value their customers and instinctively operate in their best interest (which, in turn, is in the best interest of the company).
Before you head to 7th Street & Glendale with your best sad face, hoping for a free meal: the remodeled Sauce opens for lunch today. But, head up there anyway, knowing that you’ll get great food at a great price, prepared and served by people who really value you as a customer. And, while you’re there, think about your own business. Do you do instinctively show your customers or constituents how much you appreciate them? How do you do it, and what can you do better?
Show Fox Restaurant Concepts some love… follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s probably a golden rule for marketers to not choose favorites, but, if you know me, it’s no secret that Expect More Arizona is easily my favorite client. It’s not just the amazing people I get to work with (from the Board on down to my colleagues I drive all over the state with) or the really cool work I get the freedom to do, but to believe so firmly in the organization’s mission and to get to contribute to its success continues to be rewarding on a daily basis.
This year, we’re taking our message up several notches with a non-partisan campaign designed to make education the top priority in this year’s elections. With that in mind, last week we launched the “Vote 4 Education” campaign. You should start to see the signs and other materials pop up in communities across Arizona any day now. And, definitely, visit the Expect More Arizona web site to read the 4 questions and 4 actions to help you Vote 4 Education.
But, one part of the campaign that I’m really excited about is the Voter Resource Center. Here, we’re trying to make it really easy for people to share the campaign materials, both online and off. We’ve included all the campaign materials that you can download and print, and we’ve supplied widgets and images so anyone can embed campaign images on their web site or blog (as seen in this post). We also provide images that we’re encouraging friends to use as their social media profile pictures
Expect More Arizona and the “Vote 4 Education” have the potential to make a significant change in a struggling Arizona. Education must be a priority now. We can’t wait to fix education until after we fix our economy. Education – building a stronger workforce, creating an education system that will attract new businesses and top talent, instead of deterring them – is the key to restoring our economy. So, join me in voting 4 education, beginning by voting Yes on 100 on May 18.
The jury is still out, but I think I’m going to give Facebook a thumbs up for changing from the Fan Page to allowing users to “Like” a page. Here’s why… In the past, I’ve had clients who were uncomfortable asking people to become a “fan” of their organization or their work. The semantic change might help these clients and others feel a little more comfortable with building relationships through Facebook without sounding too self-serving or cocky.
Here’s a crazy story from my experience today at LA Fitness. I won’t even go into the convoluted reason they had me cancel my membership and sign up again (annoying), but this led to meeting Sales Manager and Sales Guy (we’ll call them that the purpose of this post).
When I met Sales Manager a couple of days ago with my girlfriend, he informed me that I have a Jewish last name and then proceeded to bid me “Shalom.”
They couldn’t sign me up that day (again, annoying), so I returned today to meet with Sales Guy. As we’re sitting there, Sales Manager sits down next to me, and begins to unload more crazy.
Sales Manager: Hey, Sales Guy, did you know that Jeff is Jewish?
Sales Guy: (Blank stare)
Jeff: Um…. Okay.
Sales Manager: That means we need to pick his brain on how to make money.
Sales Guy: (Panic stare)
Jeff: Ummmm… that’s a little offensive.
Sales Manager: No, it’s okay. I’m Dominican. People call me Mexican all the time.
Jeff & Sales Guy: (Confused and awkward silence).
Sales Manager: I’m Christian. But, at my church we believe in Israel. (Pause) Are you militant?
Jeff: Ummmmmm…. No, not really.
This small snippet of a larger exchange begs a couple of questions. First, are there Christians who don’t believe in Israel? Great! First Santa, then the Easter Bunny, now this? Where do they believe Natalie Portman is really from?
But, the bigger question is: How does a business combat stories like this that will lead to negative word of mouth? (The obvious answer is prevention, but, hey, things happen).
Do I think Sales Manager meant to be offensive? No. (As Sales Guy explained when he took me aside and apologized, “That’s just how he is.”)
Will this prevent me from remaining a member? No. (But only because I play racquetball with friends there).
But, here’s the big thing: Will I tell this story EVERY TIME someone mentions LA Fitness in my presence? Absolutely! Will many of the people who hear it retell it to their friends? You bet.
So, here’s what LA Fitness should do to try to fix it.
First, publicly make it right.
This is 2010, when most of us have a story to tell, we tell it online where countless of our friends and their friends can read it (or watch it or listen to it). Hopefully, a large brand like LA Fitness monitors online mentions of their brand (via Google, Twitter search, or pay for a social media listening service like Radian6). Once aware of this blog post or Tweets about it, they should use those venues to comment, apologize (if that’s what they feel this merits), and find a way to make it right. (LA Fitness, please don’t do anything drastic like fire Sales Manager. The guy means well. You just haven’t trained him on how to behave in the workplace).
Next, give me a better story to tell.
This is huge. Like I said, I will tell this story every time I hear of LA Fitness. Why not give me a better story to tell? Give me something else positive to say whenever I hear the name… or, at the very least, give me an ending for this story that will put a positive spin on it.
I guess I am militant after all. Not about Israel (whatever that means), but about word of mouth. Your employees are your brand. Like it or not, Sales Manager defined what LA Fitness means today. So, LA Fitness, it’s your move.
Sometimes I hear clients or colleagues refer to me as a “Social Media Expert.” While it’s very flattering, to be honest, I’ve never really been comfortable with the title. I am a marketer (with, hopefully, some level of expertise) who often uses social media as a tool to engage consumers in conversation. I’ve long maintained that if you really want a “Social Media Expert,” you should hire a teenager. (You’ll sacrifice the marketing end, of course, but most teenagers know more about social media than most professional marketers will ever know).
Over the holidays, I got to spend time with family, including my 14-year-old nephew Matt, a true “Social Media Expert.” Matt asked me some questions about Blabbermouth, and showed some real interest in what I do. He asked, in particular, about a YouTube video I had done for my business. I told him that if he wanted to make his own Blabbermouth video – and if he did a good job – I would feature it on my Web site. He did a good job with it, so…
Presenting a Matt Goodman Production, “What is a Blabbermouth”:
Matt is a veteran YouTube video maker. I feel pretty confident that once he starts sharing this video with his friends and online social networks, it will have the highest number of views of any video I have made. Thanks, Matt. Great job!
My first encounter with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) was in June of 2006 in San Francisco. I was working at an ad agency in Phoenix in the PR department, frustrated with the model of traditional marketing. Writing press releases and pitching journalists on stories they rightly had no interest in didn’t feel like relating to the public to me. I wanted to connect the public to my clients, and trying to convince a reporter for the LA Times that she should write a story about a tiny spa in Bullhead City, AZ just wasn’t cutting it.
Fortunately, the agency sent me to the WOMMA conference in San Francisco, and my life changed. Finding WOMMA was like finding professional religion to me; I was quickly converted and devoted to finding a way to practice word of mouth marketing. That conference, led by then CEO Andy Sernovitz, was full of enthusiasm and passion. It was a group people trying to build a marketing movement; it felt like the Obama campaign trying to win the Iowa caucus. The highlight of the conference was Jackie Huba’s compelling keynote address, where she opened our eyes to the power of enabling customers to become evangelists (that speech is still the best marketing presentation I have ever seen). Sernovitz and crew were creating more than an association; they were creating a discipline and wanted me on board along with anyone else with the passion and skill to move this thing forward.
Fast forward to last week in Vegas. I have my own word of mouth marketing business and some really great clients. I went to the conference looking to gain new, fresh insights on how to harness the power of word of mouth for my clients and my business. I returned poorer and frustrated, but with as much passion as ever for the discipline of word of mouth marketing; unfortunately, now I feel like my passion is not shared by the association that holds the discipline’s name.
When I registered and at the conference, WOMMA staff tried to convince me (with an albeit soft sell) to become a paying member. That’s not going to happen any time soon. Here’s why:
WOM is not all about social media. At the very beginning of this conference, social media was introduced as a “subset” of word of mouth marketing. What other subsets did they mention? None. This was not a word of mouth conference; it was a social media conference. I mean, the tagline of the conference was: “Beyond Social Media.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a BIG believer in the power of social media. I use it for my business, my clients, and myself all the time. But, social media is a tactic that helps generate and amplify word of mouth. It is not the whole of the discipline. Read Sernovitz’s book. No, seriously, READ SERNOVITZ’S BOOK! It’s about people, ideas, and conversation. He writes about word of mouth marketing, and yes, social media is in there as a tool for enabling the conversations. WOMMA is now solely about social media, mostly Twitter. This conference didn’t teach me a thing I don’t get in my inbox everyday from a surplus of “social media experts.” Andy Sernovitz was nowhere to be found at the WOMMA conference; I don’t know him, and I don’t know why he wasn’t there, but I’m guessing his vision doesn’t exactly jibe with WOMMA’s so much anymore.
What’s the benefit to me exactly? Each time I’ve been approached to become a member, I ask what the benefit will be to my company. Other than being able to say I’m a member and get a discount on the conference (which doesn’t make up for the $1,000 membership fee for a small business), I’ve been unable to determine a benefit. In fact…
I shouldn’t have to compete with my own trade association. WOMMA was very excited to sell us on their new Learn It, Do It! series that is “offering Brands, Agencies, and Non-Profits on-site education about Word of Mouth and Social Media Marketing” for the low, low price of $1250. Well, that’s one way a lot of word of mouth marketing consultants, like myself, make a living. Sometimes we’ll have to compete with each other for jobs, but we shouldn’t have to compete with WOMMA for work. I thought they were supposed to help us succeed, not take away opportunities from their members. If an actor has to compete with his agent for jobs, it’s times for the actor to fire the agent.
Costs too much for a very small business like mine. Like I said.
So, I’ve whined and griped (without even mentioning how amazing and right-on Emanuel Rosen was), but now I’ll tell you a bit of my vision for a better WOMMA. I’m not sure if WOMMA is interested and I’m not even sure that a better WOMMA for me is better for most its members, but for what it’s worth:
“Beyond Social Media”: Social media could – and should – be the biggest focus, but let’s look at the other subsets, and how to start offline conversations before we amplify them with social media. Let’s look at how to create the big ideas, the experiences, the products and services that get people talking, and then let’s give them a place to shout about it. And then, when we do talk about social media…
Look to the future. Jackie Huba talked about Shakira’s use of fan-generated video in 2006. In fact, it’s all in her last book. SERIOUSLY, READ BOTH OF HER BOOKS! Most of us know how to use YouTube and Twitter; we need to know what we’re going to use in the near future before it happens. I didn’t hear any content about Google Wave or Foursquare, much less whatever 3D-hologram-virtual-reality-social-community-marketplace is coming after them (hopefully including a jet pack).
A little humility, please. You don’t get credit for the popularity of social media. If I had seen Mark Zuckerberg or Biz Stone on the board or even a panel, it might’ve merited the amount of backslapping. We’re an industry about building relationships; being a little more approachable will go a long way. I will admit a lot of you have amazing hair, though.
On that note. I know you’re proud of the FTC thing, but now what’s next? Other “marketers” are abusing our channels in many ways. Most of my Twitter friends have let me know how to “make money online with Google.” Daily, hackers, spammers, and phishers are negating efforts of true relationship building. I have always respected how early WOMMA came out with its code of ethics. How can you help enforce more than just full disclosure on blogs?
Look, I’m not saying that other people or businesses shouldn’t join WOMMA. In fact, if you look at the Twitter stream from the conference (of which I was an active part) you’ll find that most commenters found value and show a lot more enthusiasm for the event. If you are a large brand with a big budget and a traditional marketing team that doesn’t already use social media, WOMMA may be exactly what you need. I’m saying that it isn’t what I need. And that sucks. I’d love to have the old WOMMA back to support and inspire me. I’d love to join 2006 WOMMA, but at least for now, that doesn’t seem like a possibility.