What is your "flaming fountain?"

On Bourbon Street in New Orleans you can find a lot of the same, but at pat O'Brien's they are known to stick out a little bit more.

Lately I have been a little busier than usual and haven’t been able to post as much as I would like on this blog. One of the reasons for that was a conference I was preparing for that I was asked to speak at. The CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference in New Orleans was my first official speaking assignment and they wanted to make sure they used me as much as they could. Along with my co-presenter, Bruce Ulrich, we spoke at three different sessions. It was a great experience and I really loved being able to impart some of my knowledge with my peers.

New Orleans also offered a great learning¬†experience¬†for me beyond the conference. NOLA has quite the reputation and most of that comes from Bourbon Street and its bar scene. I¬†quickly¬†realized that many of the bars/clubs down there were basically the same. I heard music up and down the street and most of it was from Rock n Roll cover bands. I quickly had the feeling that Bourbon Street did not¬†differentiate¬†itself from many of the other bar crawling streets in the nation. Then I stopped in Pat O’Brien’s. The atmosphere was a little different there. No live band (at least the night I stopped by) and a great big flaming fountain in the middle of the courtyard.

It made me think, what am I doing with my personal brand and with my¬†company’s¬†brand that could be akin to a flaming fountain? I am doing anything out of the ordinary to stick out and show that I am different? In most industries we are all stuck looking and acting very much alike. You see this in highly regulated industries like banking or in small businesses in the same geographical area. Occasionally you get those that are able to set themselves apart with branding, i.e. WaMu’s “Stodgy Bankers” campaign or Ally Bank and its attack on the status quo. Look at what you and your competitors are doing and see what truly sets you apart. Do not try to fall in line because “everyone else is doing it.” Work on ways you can be different. Change your products. Change your company culture. You can do it and be successful. Pat O’Brien’s is still a spot many locals go. That might have something more to do with their specialty drinks but it is also because they have stood and from the crowd.

So what can you do to stand out from the crowd? Have you thought about your own “flaming fountain” and how it could benefit you?

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It has definitely been a while since I have updated my blog. With that I bring you a longer than normal post!

There is no better spot to witness the armchair quarterback in business than on social media. Currently you have many “experts” willing to give their advice to companies that have stumbled in their efforts, and we all fall in this category. Yes I am including myself in this. I find myself being a little too cynical of what is going on.

Of course with national flubs like Lowe’s, GoDaddy, Ocean Marketing, and countless others have experienced lately it is no wonder we all decide to hang out on the sidelines and declare “what we would have done.”

As many have pointed out, it is very beneficial to have a disaster recovery plan in place. It is also important to have someone knowledgable in place to handle the backlash. The thing that each of these companies have forgotten to do is to remember what they stand for. Lowe’s is a company that stood for the American Dream, home ownership. It wasn’t solely the Christian or Jewish Dream. It was about the diversity that we have in America but we all want the same thing. We want a place of our own. Lowe’s is able to help people make their house a home but the company forgot its primary purpose.

GoDaddy is in the same boat. It thrives off of people being able to do what they want online without fear of most repercussion and the legislation that GoDaddy helped create by sponsoring it went against the values of its customers. Ocean Marketing was a service company. It provided a service and if part of that includes customer service, which apparently it did, you must remain professional with the customer at all times. The customer does not care whether or not you have had a bad day or week. They write your paycheck and need to be treated like that.

There are many examples of companies “doing it wrong” but if you look hard enough there are many more of those that do it right. You must understand what you stand for before making any decisions and then decide if your next campaign falls within those standards. Make sure you stick to your guns and follow through. Be strong and do not second guess your ideas if they truly go along with your brand.

What companies do you see that stick to their brand, no matter what?

Posted: December 28, 2011 in Marketing, Social Media, Thoughts
Tags: , , , ,

So I want to preface this post by saying that this is not how everyone acts. This is just an observation on PR and Marketing professionals and how I see many of them use social media. I am a marketer by trade and hope I do not slip into these stereotypes. With that out-of-the-way, if you get offended, chances are you fall into one of these categories.

There has been much debate over which department in a large company should take care of the social media duties. Many believe Marketing should be in charge, while others believe PR should lead the way (there is also a subset of people who believe customer service should be in charge but for the purposes of this post I am leaving it out). While a lot of this depends on what the company’s end goal is with social media, you can many times tell which portion of the company has control over the account.

Let’s start with PR. PR professionals are known for making their professional (i.e. stuffy) press releases. They are corporate documents and that is just how they go out for most companies. Unfortunately this also carries over into the social media aspect. When every tweet sounds like a press release, there is something wrong. You wouldn’t talk to the customer in person that way so why do you talk to them online like that? Talk to them genuinely. Try to not compose a tweet that hashtags every word YOU think people are searching for. Chances are if they are searching, they may not be looking for a specific hashtag. Create something that sounds like you are speaking with friends, not with your board of directors.

Marketing is not without its foibles in the social media realm. Have you ever seen the Twitter account that only tweets links to the company’s products and services? How about the company that never responds to their consumers? That is usually the work of marketing/sales. This is the social media equivalent of a used car salesman (and everyone loves talking to the salesman). Being pushy or purely pushing your message is not what consumers want.

Of course these tactics don’t work in a world of transparency. People want to know there is a personality behind the account. They do not care to see your corporate message. Marketing and PR messages have their place and can even be very useful in a social media setting, just not to the extent people push them. If you have a community event, don’t push it out like a press release. Mention it, show pictures but as if you were sharing it with a friend. If you have a great sale going on, do not push out a quick billboard style message to your followers. Most will ignore it (kind of like billboards themselves).

Talk to people as you would want to be spoken to. Be genuine and you will see some traction. If you are not an established brand, social media can be an uphill battle but you can gain exposure. In all, see what works for you. Just don’t be a Marketing or PR professional online.

Time for you to sound off, have you seen any companies exhibit these traits within social media? Have you seen companies where these traits have actually paid off for them?

Twitter Fail Whale by Yiying Lu http://www.yiyinglu.com

Now don’t get me wrong, Klout¬†is very important in a social media setting. I do not need to get into a fight about how important it is. In fact if you would rather read about how awesome it is to have “Klout” you can read this great blog post by a great guy named Robert Caruso. Klout has its place.

I am here to talk about those who think that because they have “Klout,” the world should move for them. Twitter is a great site for sharing information. It can really bring around a lot of collaboration and I have met some wonderful people there. It can also be a place to complain and (maybe) get your way. I follow one such twitterer that had an issue with @Southwestair.

This person was hoping to make an earlier flight, that had space available, home. Unfortunately the ticket she had from Southwest did not allow her to change and she figured that a quick tweet would change that. I understand business and the fact that if the flight had room they would not be losing any business by allowing her on. I will say that they have every right to deny her request, and they did.

This is where it gets fun. She then caused a frenzy with her followers because of, what she felt was, a snub of a very loyal and “important” client. Without getting into much detail, this twitterer regularly throws around her Klout number since it is in the 70’s. Great. She spends a lot of time online. Not a bad thing. I know many people with those kinds of scores. That does not mean you should get anything and everything you desire.

Look at people like Scott Stratten (@UnMarketing), he loves to joke about how he is a big player in a semi-relevant online site. He has a huge and very loyal following but does not demand special treatment (but regularly gets it). He is someone to emulate online. He understands Klout’s importance but does not rely on it for his work. He relies on his work. Thanks for the great example Scott.

Klout is a very important tool to help understand what goes on online. People need to understand that it is just a number. Yes it can help your business but do not rely on it for special treatment.

What do you think? Did Southwest make the right move by standing there ground? Maybe, maybe not. Sound off in the comment.

I just wanted to start off by saying “thanks” to everyone that helped out with this¬†little experiment I did. Now for the back story.

I was recently emailed about a position for a Social Media Manager I had applied for before getting my current position. They mentioned that they were going to be going through the process of hiring and wanted applicants to make a video describing why they are a great fit for the position. Since Social Media is all about community I thought this would be a question better answered by friends.

My next thought was that Twitter is ruled (in the most part) by services like Klout and Empire Ave that push a lot of self-promotion. I wanted to test the waters to see if people would help promote someone they know and have worked with.

That is where the last post came in. I found out that even through all the self-promotion, Social Media is still about community. There may be a lot of self-promotion that has infiltrated but people still care. Friends are still there to support you, even if they are not sure what you are working on.

That is community. Working together is what it is all about, thank you for your help with this little experiment.