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Excellence Tour for Web

I’m very proud to have helped launch The Expect More Excellence Tour for my longtime client, Expect More Arizona. The Excellence Tour is a portal to see and share excellence in education across Arizona. Although we know there is still a long way to go before we see the type of world-class education Arizona’s students deserve, it is important to recognize and celebrate the models of excellence in our state. This reminds us that not only is excellence possible here, it is already happening across our state right now. Now, we must demand that excellence for all of Arizona’s students.

There are just a few highlights about the site I want to point out, and then I encourage you to visit, vote, and share.

  • A Google map is embedded where you can visit different areas in Arizona to see local submissions.
  • A “Thumbs Up” ticker on the map measures engagement with each example of excellence submission. It’s fun to watch those numbers climb throughout the day.
  • Each submission has its own unique URL, with buttons to share that page via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and e-mail.
  • Visitors can vote for their favorite videos, encouraging submitters to utilize their networks (and their networks’ networks, and so on) to share their submission. You can only vote for a video one time per day, to encourage repeat visitors.
  • The user-generated content gives participants ownership of the site, and the friendly competition gives them a vested interest in driving traffic.

But, mostly, in an environment that often focuses on the negative, this is a nice way to stop and acknowledge great work that is happening in an increasingly challenging arena. It’s a way to say thank you to those who are expecting more of themselves and raising the bar for education in Arizona. And, personally, I don’t think we can say thank you enough.

Please visit The Expect More Excellence Tour to see the submissions and nominate your own!

 

When Green Day’s American Idiot was released in 2004, I listened to it non-stop. As soon as it ended, I would start over from the beginning and listen again. It became a sort of addiction; the passion in the music and the completeness of the album just hooked me. I’ve also been a lifelong fan of musical theatre, so when I heard that American Idiot was being adapted for the stage, my curiosity was definitely piqued. I knew the result would either be brilliant… or a complete disaster. I finally had the opportunity to see it last night at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. It was brilliant.

The production was directed by Michael Mayer, who won a Tony for his direction of another favorite show of mine, Spring Awakening. He captures the raw emotion and energy of Green Day’s work, and, like with Spring Awakening, brings innovative staging and storytelling. The cast brings it as well, led by Van Hughes who is incredible in the role of Johnny. After the curtain call, the entire cast comes back to the stage with guitars (although I caught at least one of them faking it) for a new arrangement of Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). That alone is worth the price of admission.

This is a show you could see many times and notice something new every time. American Idiot is not to be missed.

One last quick note. For as long as I can remember seeing shows at Gammage, the sound has been pretty awful. This was not the case last night. The balance was good, and you could hear the singers over the band really well. I spoke with a representative from Gammage who told me they made some changes recently, relocating and replacing some equipment. Whatever they did, seems to have worked, which is great news for audiences!

(Disclaimer: Tickets to the show for myself and my wife were complimentary in exchange for my participation in the Gammage Goers program. This in no way influenced my response.)

Read my other Gammage Goers reviews here.

I was very excited to be selected to be one of Gammage Theatre’s “Gammage Goers” for the 2011-2012 season. In this program, they harness the power of theatre goers’ online networks to spread word of mouth about current productions. They gain not only the exponential reach of the Goers’ networks, but the added benefit of a review seen as more credible coming from a family member or friend. The shows I was selected to review this year are West Side Story, Green Day’s American Idiot, and La Cage Aux Folles.

One of the questions I asked the panel when I interviewed to be a Gammage Goer was, “What happens if I don’t like a show?” (hoping the question wouldn’t immediately eliminate me). They wisely responded that having an honest, negative review only adds credibility to the program. So, it’s a good thing they feel that way, because I didn’t love this cast of West Side Story. As much as I wanted to like Uof A grad Kyle Harris as Tony, I just didn’t. I had seen him in Hair a couple of years ago, and thought he was great. To me, his voice doesn’t fit this role and his broad portrayal was distracting. The rest of the cast was good, but nobody blew me away.

I did, however, in my immediate post-show video interview, want to focus on some of the positive as well. So, as you’ll hear in my interview, I believe that seeing a production of West Side Story is important context for understanding the groundwork that was laid for the Broadway musical to evolve.  Anymore, it seem like every show likes to tout that it “Redefines musical theatre.” West Side Story made that possible. Arthur Laurents, author of the musical’s book, said, “I thought maybe it would run for three months. I didn’t care. It was so not what a musical should be.”

Here’s my immediate reaction:

I should point out that my opinion of the cast was not shared by The Arizona Republic or my fellow Gammage Goers. For tickets and information, click here.

(Disclaimer: Tickets to the show for myself and my wife were complimentary in exchange for my participation in the Gammage Goers program. As I mentioned, they in no way influenced my response.)

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.”

WOMMA Summit Banner

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.

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).

In yet another example of how President Obama is pioneering the use of social media in politics, the White House has announced that the President will be answering questions in a live online town hall meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 2009). You can submit questions here and vote on the ones you would like to hear answered. Like him or not (I like him), you have to admit that he is continuing to use social media as a tool for transparency and participation.

Part of using social media to its fullest extent is not only sharing information, but using it as a tool to listen and respond. To create dialogues, not simply monologue and rants. This is what President Obama does time and again using online tools. Not to bring up an old rivalry, but Arizona Senator John McCain could learn a thing or two from his example. He’s received press and commendation for his use of Twitter, particularly after being mocked for not knowing how to use a computer during the campaign. But, he’s not using Twitter in the best possible way. He’s using it to rant and promote his agenda, but he’s not using it to listen and respond. Twitter is supposed to make users accessible. He ignores replies and doesn’t ever respond. This truly isn’t partisan criticism; I think he would actually benefit from taking my advice. His agenda and overall brand image would be much better served by allowing the type of openness and transparency social media expects and deserves.

The cover article of the current Fast Company highlights Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook and architect of Obama’s use of social media on the campaign trail. In so many ways, Barack Obama is President because of what Hughes did for him during the election. It’s so refreshing to see them continuing to utilize social media now that Obama is in office.

People are always asking me what I do at Blabbermouth, and – to be honest – I’m not great at answering that question yet. Blabbermouth is not even a few months old, and I haven’t figured out the best way to tell my story. Yet.

I came to the Ragan Social Media conference in Las Vegas to learn some more tactics to use in getting out the word about my clients. But, thanks to Blend Tec VP of Marketing George Wright, the best thing I learned today has me closer to answering the “What do you do?” question. 

Surely, most of you are familiar with Wright’s Will it Blend campaign, which has become one of the most viral marketing efforts in history. With a budget of $50, Wright created a campaign that has seen a 700% increase in sales of the Blend Tec consumer product.

Will it Blend was born like many great marketing ideas, by paying attention to what makes the brand unique. Blend Tec CEO Tom Dickson is diligent about testing his products. Regularly, he would take a 2×2 board to one of his blenders to make sure it was strong enough. Wright really wanted to watch his boss shove a board into a blender, and the light bulb went on over his head. If he wanted to watch that bad, surely others would too. It was an idea that was compelling and reinforced what made their products great.

The idea had been right there all along, with the sawdust all over the floor, but it took Wright’s vision to realize it. George Wright says, if you are looking for your next big marketing idea, ask yourself, “What’s the sawdust on my floor?”

That’s what I do at Blabbermouth. I help my clients figure out what their sawdust is, and then create ways for their consumers to tell others about it.

On another note, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, gave a very inspirational opening keynote speech. In Hsieh’s opinion, there is no such thing as social media – it’s simply about creating a great culture and amazing customer service. The rest will follow. If I hadn’t just started Blabbermouth, I’d definitely be trying to get a job at Zappos right now. And, if I got hired, I most certainly wouldn’t accept the $2000 he offers new hires to quit!

I could really use your help. I created this video for a great band – The Citizens. I really want to spread the word about them…not because they’re clients, and not because I’m close friends with the guitar player. I have loved this band for a long time, and I know once more people hear them, the possibilities are endless.

So, I’d like to ask a few favors of you. First, watch the video.

Next, did you like them? You can hear more of their music on The Citizens’ Web site. If you like what you hear, you can download their albums from iTunes. You can also become a fan on Facebook.

Finally – and this is where I really need your help – I’d like to find some bloggers who will repost The Surfer video. Obviously, those who write about music would be a start, but let’s think beyond that too. There have to be blogs about monkeys, circuses, circus freaks, surfing, monsoons, and other related topics seen in the video. Do you know these bloggers? Do you know someone who knows someone? If you do, please let them know about The Surfer video. Every little bit helps; no blog is too big or too small.

Thanks for your help. You’re the best!