Did you see the article on NYTimes.com  How to Market Your Business With Facebook? Most of the clients I’ve consulted are on board with using Facebook as a marketing tool. But, like with all social media tools, they have one big fear… Will it last?

They were around when everyone was saying, “You have to get on MySpace.” Some of them bit, created a MySpace page, built a following, and then left it alone for a while. Now, if they hear MySpace mentioned at all, it’s: “Nobody’s on MySpace anymore!”

Some of you want to jump in to these social media tools, but you’re afraid of wasting your very limited time in something that’s going to go away pretty soon. Ask me if Twitter will be around in 5 years, my answer – maybe. Will MySpace? Not as a social media site.

Will Facebook be around for a long time? My answer? YES!

Of course, it’s my opinion, but here’s my thinking:

Remember switching from records to cassette tapes and then tapes to CDs? What about BetaMax tapes to VHS and VHS to DVD?

We’re always reluctant to changing media devices, because we already built up libraries. We think, “I already have all of these VHS tapes, I don’t want to start over with these newfangled DVDs!” But, we ended up making the change, because the DVDs worked better. If we could have upgraded the functionality of our VHS tapes, we wouldn’t have made the switch.

Same thing goes with Facebook. There are well over 300 million Facebook users. And, most of us have built up our networks of friends, colleagues, people we went to elementary school with, and more. We don’t want to have to find all of those people all over again when “the next big thing” comes out and tries to replace Facebook.

But, unlike VHS tapes or records, Facebook has the ability to upgrade itself constantly (which it does, and we are reluctant every time, until we get used to it). Say what you will about Zuckerberg and crew, but those guys are smart. They aren’t worried about competing with they “next big thing,” they are always working to make sure that Facebook continues to be “the next big thing.”

So, if you’re waiting to use Facebook as a communication tool because you’re not sure it will be around… I say stop waiting and climb on board. I’m confident it will be useful for you for a while (as long as you  remember it is not like traditional advertising, but a place to build relationships — but I digress. That’s a conversation for another time).

What do you think? How long will Facebook dominate social media? How do you think we will be using it differently in 5 years? 10 years?

Below is a video I made with my golf instructor, Robbie Camacho:

By the way, the Federal Trade Commision requires I tell you that Robbie is also a client. I am, however, under no obligation to tell you that Robbie is a great golf instructor, a pretty darn good golfer, and a really nice guy. If you are looking for some golf lessons in the Phoenix area, definitely give him a call (or, you can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).

Lucky readers of my blog, Childsplay is offering you free tickets to its season premier, Honus and Me. The show opened last weekend to rave reviews and runs until October 11.

From the Arizona Republic:

Childsplay pitches a near-perfect game with this production, the first of its 2009-10 season, with winning performances from company regulars… Beautifully staged by director Dwayne Hartford and a talented design team, it’s easy to find the right sports metaphor for this show: home run.

Here’s what you have to do: The first 5 readers to e-mail me requesting tickets will receive up to 4 tickets to the performance of your choice. (Click here for show times.)

Israel Jiménez and Joe Kremer in Honus and Me

Here’s what I ask in return: Tell your friends! Tweet that you’re going (feel free to use the names @ChildsplayAZ and @BlabbermouthAZ in your tweets), post a link to the review on Facebook, blog about it, blab about it, tell other parents, baseball fans, theatre fans. Post a comment on this blog below that you are a recipient of the free tickets, and then post again after the show to let us know how much you enjoyed it.

This is a great show from a world-class theatre company, and you can bring your family for free. All I’m asking is… (PSST, PASS IT ON)!

Im a member of the Hanacore!

I'm a member of the "Hanacore!"

My favorite local sushi joint – Hana Japanese Eatery – understands that it has a league of loyal customers who rave about their food to friends, family, colleagues, and, probably, complete strangers. In the marketing world, we call those people evangelists. At Hana, they call them “Hardcore Hanacore”.

From Hana’s Blog:

Our fans are… special.  They wait for our tweets each day and then flock for the sushi. They start fan groups. When one of them spies us bringing in a full size bluefin tuna to butcher on the sushi counter, cell phones all over town light up until there’s a crowd here like a circus.

Like I said, special. So we’d like to acknowledge that kind of crazy by branding you a Hanacore.  Feel free to post this sucker to your blog or site- paint it on the side of your car, or hey- see what your tattoo artist can do with it.

We’ll be paying special attention to these suckers, and we’ll be watching our Hanacores. Who knows what surprises may come their way?

They have embraced social media as a tool to amplify their Word of Mouth, but they are doing it right (mostly). Hana begins – as all good Word of Mouth stories do – with an amazing product. Chef Koji-san selects only the best fish, and takes pride in what he serves. Plus, they take great care of their customers, often serving a complementary appetizer and a dish of pickled wasabi. I don’t want to turn this post into a restaurant review, but, the other night, Koji-san served me a perfect plate of tuna sashimi and some uni that was buttery and subtle. The star dish, however, came from the hot kitchen; when you go, if they have a special called “scallop edamame,” don’t miss it.

A great product and great customer service then turns to relationships. If you’ve heard me talk about social media before, you know that building relationships – on- and offline – is the key to successful Word of Mouth. Your loyalists gain a vested interest in your success when they have a relationship with you. Customers at Hana are treated like family, and, in turn, are even more driven to help the restaurant succeed.

They also embrace their customers’ evangelism by offering tools on their blog to help their customers share, like the “Hardcore Hanacore” logo and even linking to a customer created Facebook group. This is a wonderful way to reinforce the passion of their Hanacore. However, Facebook is the one area I’d like to see them improve. A group is not the best way to use the most effective communication tool on the web. They should start (or ask their loyal customer to start) a Facebook fan page. The fan page will push their posts out to fans’ news streams and also allow fans to tag them in a status post (creating a hyperlink to their fan page). It’s a great way to stay connected with customers, whereas a group page usually sits there unnoticed.

Hana’s Word of Mouth – both online and off – has been a success story for the restaurant and the neigborhood. I’m definitely a member of The Hanacore, and I urge all of you to rush to Hana to give it a try. The only downside of their Word of Mouth success is that I can’t get a seat there anytime I want anymore.

This morning, my Facebook account was hacked. The hacker, pretending to be me, instant messages my friends telling them I’ve been mugged in London and need money wired immediately. This isn’t true, of course. I have no access to my Facebook account for now. If any of you knows someone at Facebook who can help, please put them in touch with me.

Needless to say, if anyone ever asks you for money over the internet, even if it is a friend, you should be very suspicious. If it’s real, the person should have another way to communicate it to you. Here’s a link to an article with details on this particular scam.

Tons have been calling me today to make sure I’m okay. I’m fine, thanks for your concern. I may have to recreate my Facebook account or rebuild my friends list, so look for a friend request from me in the near future (hopefully “near” future).

The best response of all came from my 13-year-old nephew who, while chatting with the hacker, said, “Uncle Jeff, I say this with all respect, F**K YOU WE KNOW ABOUT THE SCAM MOTHER F**KER.”

Continentals Ads boast the newest planes in the sky, but theyve been around long enough to gather some dust. This is a shot of the panel above my seat. Yuck.

Continental's Ads boast the newest planes in the sky, but they've been around long enough to gather some dust. This is a shot of the panel above my seat. Yuck.

When passengers on Captain Denny Flanagan’s United Airlines flights encounter an unexpected delay, they have an experience they are sure to tell all of their friends and families. But, these passengers aren’t talking about the delay, they’re raving about how Capt. Flanagan left the plane to find a McDonald’s in the terminal and returned with a bag of 200 hamburgers to pass out on the plane. Last week, when my Continental Airlines flight was diverted from Newark to Pittsburgh, we sat on the plane hungry for 9 hours total without being allowed to deplane. Now, I know Continental can’t control the weather, and I’m grateful they aren’t allowed to try to land the plane in a lightning storm, but they can learn from the experiences Capt. Flanagan provides his passengers that turn bad experiences into Word of Mouth opportunities.

The next leg of the trip saw another 4-hour delay, where I sat in the hot terminal with no seats, no free wi-fi, and nowhere to plug in my fading iPhone. Again, I don’t expect you to take off with no co-pilot or flight attendant (who were delayed out of Michigan), but throw us a bone here.

In bad times, invest a small amount of time and money in making your passengers happy. The return on your investment can be a fleet of shiny brand loyalists who will evangelize their experience to friends and families. Here are some ways an Airline can turn a bad experience into a bearable one and get people talking:

  • WWDD (What Would Denny Do?): Read the WSJ article on how Captain Flanagan treats his passengers. Create a corporate culture that inspires similar behavior. Make sure pilots know they can expense 200 cheeseburgers and empower them with the tools to treat passengers like valued customers.
  • Information: Look, the FAA is in charge here, most of us know that. But, let us know what’s going on. If we understand the situation, we can deal with it better. In Newark, there were very few seats in the terminal, and you had to find one even if it meant going to a different gate. Information at the gate was sparse, but if you weren’t there you got nothing. How can you keep us better informed?
  • Connectivity: In Newark, you had to pay for wireless internet service (some airports offer this free). If I were running Continental Airlines, I’d make an arrangement with Boingo (Newark’s wi-fi provider) to buy wi-fi passes in bulk. It’s a small investment for a large return… Time passes much faster when we are playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook.
  • Buy Some Power Strips and Extension Cords: We hate being stuck in an airport because we feel cut off. Our phones and laptops help alleviate that feeling (see Connectivity above), but there are about 12 outlets in the whole terminal. If I were you, I’d buy a bunch of extension cords and power strips, providing more outlets and locations to plug in. It’s a low-tech solution, but, trust me, we’ll REALLY appreciate it.
  • Liquor? I Barely Know Her: Sorry, but free headphones for the remake of Escape from Witch Mountain only makes matters worse. Offer to buy us a drink. We won’t all accept it, but it’s the thought that counts. I’m not suggesting turning the airplane into a keg party. One drink – it will take the edge off for a few people, and the gesture will be appreciated.

I should mention that Continental isn’t the only offender. I mean, look at US Airways… When the best PR you’ve had in a decade is crashing a plane in the Hudson, you’re not doing it right. Even Captain Flanagan’s airline got in major social media trouble for breaking guitars:

Airlines, you’re in a tough situation. We hate to travel, and it’s only become more annoying in the last 8 years. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we just want to get to where we’re going. But, creating a corporate culture that encourages your staff to make it just a little better will do wonders for your positive Word of Mouth. McDonald’s doesn’t even make a great burger, but if you buy us one, we’ll talk about how much we enjoyed it.

So, you have a great product, and people are ready and willing to tell their friends. Why not make it easier for them. Giving people who want to share easy access to tools that will help them share is a great way to encourage positive Word of Mouth. Widgets – when done right – provide a great tool for sharing an experience.

I’m going to New York in a week to go to my good friend Clayton’s wedding, and while I’m there I’m going to take in a Broadway show. The producers of Billy Elliot created this widget for me to share my experience:


Notice there’s a link to click to find out more information about the show. Now that you know I’m going, you might ask me about the experience after I’ve seen it. The widget sets up the opportunity for Word of Mouth both before and after the show. You’ll also find Billy Elliot on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll let you know how I like the show.

Sometimes it’s nice to hear your favorite band stripped down of all of the production and amplification often heard on recordings and in concert. This is how you really get to know their talent; it’s the most authentic performance.

We’re always searching for authenticity in marketing. Sometimes the best way to find it is to pull the plug on your marketing efforts as well. Finding the ways to generate offline word of mouth can be the trickiest, but also the most valuable. It starts, of course, with offering an amazing product (or service). It continues with high quality customer service. And, it all comes together by being different than the rest. If you can offer your customers a unique, easy, exceptional customer experience, they will talk.

Last week, I began to talk about a company that didn’t even finish the job. Efficient Attic Systems provided me an estimate for adding much needed insulation to my hot Phoenix home. The installers showed up the next morning ready to tackle my historic home. After spending some time in my attic, they came down and explained that due to the old design of my home – particularly the low pitch of the roof – they didn’t believe they would be able to properly install the insulation in a way that would offer me a reasonable benefit for the cost. They sent a manager out to inspect and confirm, apologized profusely, and left.

Now, I know next to nothing about insulation. They could have spent a couple hours in my attic, sprayed some foam around, collected their money and left. I never would have known the difference. Times are tough, and I know the company lost money spending half a day at my house for no payment. They showed great integrity in their honesty, and although I’m disappointed that the job couldn’t be completed, I find them incredibly worthy of my praise and recommendation.

They earned Word of Mouth simply by offering a unique experience – a home improvement company more concerned about treating their customers fairly than their bottom line.

Here’s the catch, though: If U2 only performed unplugged for small crowds – no albums, no sold-out arenas – they wouldn’t have the success they have today. Bands need to turn up the volume to build support. And so it goes with Word of Mouth marketing.

Using social media shouldn’t be the reason your customers are talking about you. Social media is the amplification that helps them get heard by a broader audience. When combined properly, on- and offline Word of Mouth efforts generate authentic, positive experiences, and expand their reach further and faster than ever before.

What kind of customer experiences do you provide to encourage offline Word of Mouth?

Below, enjoy an “Unplugged” performance, courtesy of The Office’s David Brent:

This weekend, I went to visit my buddy Gordon who recently moved to Napa. Gordon works in the wine industry, so he planned a weekend of wine tasting and great food. In three days, I tasted more than 96 wines. (I say “more than,” because, although I took copious notes, there came a point Friday evening when my note taking skills became a little fuzzy. Ninety-six wines were documented, and I paced myself better on Saturday.)

For the meals, I tried Oysters at Bouchon the first night. We also ate at Bottega, Redd, Ad Hoc, and local burger hangout, Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Every meal was incredible. If you get to Napa, don’t miss Bottega’s Wood Roasted Octopus or Shaved Brussels Sprout & Asparagus Salad. (And, before my brother Gregg makes a comment below, I weighed myself and actually dropped a pound over the weekend. Maybe all of the walking.)

Here is a list of the wineries we visited, and some highlights:
Grgich Hills – I really liked their Fume Blanc (2007).
Corison
Salvestrin – Very nice family-owned winery with a great Cabernet Sauvignon (2005).
Alpha Omega – Nice label and beautiful tasting facility, but wines didn’t blow me away.
Judd’s Hill – They’re doing some interesting stuff with social media, including online video.
Pine Ridge – Try the 2005 Cabernet Franc. Seriously.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards – They serve a little food with their tasting. Just a couple of small bites to compliment an incredible Cab from their Vandal Vineyard.
Plumpjack—Founded by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, they sampled some great wines, including the 2008 Cade Sauvignon Blanc.
Darioush – Housed in a Persian palace in Napa, don’t miss the “Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses” tour to learn about and taste their great wine paired with the perfect cheeses (pictured below).
Z.D. – Their 2007 Rosa Lee Petit Sirah is worth the visit.
Trefethen – After tasting a strong Cab poured by Hailey Trefethen the night before at Cheers St. Helena, we visited her family’s winery to taste some more consistently delicious wines.

But, the highlight of wine tasting came at our very last stop, Elyse Winery. I liked many wines at each of our tastings, but Elyse was the only winery where I LOVED every single wine I tasted. We visited with Ray Coursen, winemaker and owner, a down to earth, fun guy who really, really knows how to make wine. They were all amazing, but the standouts for me were a 2007 L’Ingenue (Viogner) and the 2005 Jacob Franklin Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are anywhere that is pouring Elyse (or their other label Jacob Franklin), don’t hesitate ordering any of Ray’s wines. You won’t be disappointed.

So, that’s what I did on my summer vacation (or at least one of them). If you try any of these wines or visit any of the wineries, let me know what you think.

“Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses” at Darioush

I created this video for Entrepreneurship at ASU. It’s a really great program that helps student entrepreneurs succeed by providing resources, including access to business veterans, office space, startup grants, and more.  Not enough students and faculty at ASU know the great opportunities available through this initiative, so please share with your friends.

Also, find Entrepreneurship at ASU on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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