It’s In Your Hands

I was going through my Google Reader this morning and came across this beautiful post from Seth Godin:

When are you going to start acting like it?

The idea that you are a faceless cog in a benevolent system that cares about you and can’t tell particularly whether you are worth a day’s pay or not, is, like it or not, over.

In the long run, we’re all dead. In the medium-long run, though, we’re all self-employed. In the medium-long run, the decisions and actions we take each day determine what we’ll be doing next.

And yet, it’s so easy to revert to, “I just work here.”

Like most things I read, my mind starts to think.  Yes, I know that’s dangerous.  In a few words, Seth reinforces something that we all know already…we are responsible for making the most of what is given to us.  No other person can really determine our future except us.  Our future is in our hands.

It’s easy for me to feel like the “faceless cog” Seth mentions in his post,  especially working in such a large company like General Motors.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way.  For example, most of you know how passionate I am about the internet, technology and especially the social web.  Although I don’t have responsibility for it at work, I’ve made it my hobby and brought it into my everyday life through my Twitter feed, Facebook, and this blog.  The work has paid off.  I’ve made some great connections with people in the social web community, been recognized as knowledgeable in the space by my peers and recently guest blogged on my friend Gini Dietrich‘s blog, Spin Sucks.  Other opportunities to guest blog have recently come and I plan to take advantage of those too.

My point in all of this is that the Social Web gives you a voice when you may have thought you don’t have one.  Networking, building relationships, providing value, etc. are ways you can build your own community.  The challenge is being patient enough to build your community and look for those opportunities to do what you love and are passionate about.

“If you build it, they will come.”  It’s in your hands.

Build Your Community and Embrace It!

Over the past week, thoughts of “community” have been racing around my head.  This started when I heard a podcast with Dave Murray (@davemurr) and Sarah Worsham (@sazbean) talking about the social web and community.  It’s well worth the time and I highly recommend you listen HERE.  I’m a big fan of takeaways and there were 8 that resonated with me after hearing Dave speak.

  1. Don’t build community around your product
  2. Communities are based off of needs and passions
  3. Communities are wrapped around people and communication…product is secondary
  4. True community is allowed to grow through its own organic process
  5. The Social Web is a long term strategy…word of mouth and action happening off line
  6. Introductions are made online but meaningful connections happen in real life (confirmed by Scott Stratten, @unmarketing, today)
  7. Communities cultivate brand loyalty (see Joseph Jaffe, @jaffejuice)
  8. Putting a face / personality to a company allows for a deeper connection

What does this all mean?  To me, if you can develop and embrace a community, you’ll be able to mobilize a group of people around a common interest and take action.  Tools like Google Alerts (thanks Gini Dietrich), Facebook and Twitter allow this conversation to happen immediately.  Why not leverage them to listen to your audience and provide a value to your growing community?  If companies and organizations saw the social web as a long term investment instead of another platform for one-way communication, I’m confident they would ultimately see the ever popular ROI they long for.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) last week, founder of the 140 Conference Series.  His visit to Detroit was to kick off the planning for the conference to make its way to the Motor City on October 20th.  I’m honored to be part of the team to help bring it here and put Detroit on the national stage for 2 days.  Since then, Jeff has mentioned on many occasions that he believes this conference will be special because of the people and the spirit he’s encountered in his brief visit.  I think if you asked any of us that got to hang out with him, this is another extension of the energy we felt after the Future Midwest Conference earlier this year.  There is a community of people that live in metro Detroit that want to help turn this region around and make it a national destination.  The opening video from Future Midwest still gives me chills.  Watch it below to see what I mean.

The final thought I’ll leave you with is this.  The social web is about one thing and one thing only…people.  There is not magic tool or “trick” to be successful at it.  As long as you have a personality and value the people you’re CONVERSING  WITH, you’ll have success.

Your turn.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Have a great week!

I Love Real Life Examples

Today’s post focuses in on brands who are integrating the social web in their marketing efforts.  The first example is Levi’s.  If you go to their Friends Store, you’ll see Facebook “Like” buttons on the page.  You’ll also see some other familiar Facebook applications seen throughout the web.  Brilliant if you ask me.  What a great way for Levi’s to see what jeans are popular among their community of followers!  Levi’s now has a focus group of 342,642 (as of 6/9/2010) at their disposal!  Genius!

Another example can be found in a post from familiar friend to Salt & Light, Bryan Willmert.  In his latest blog, he takes a look at Vitamin Water and what they did to crowd source a new drink flavor.  Again, a great example of a brand leveraging its already established fan base and providing them what they want.

One final thing I’ll leave you with is an article I read earlier this week from Internet Retailer.  “Finding the Right Measure” highlights some companies that have taken advantage of the opportunities the social web provides.

The ideas that could be brought to my job have already been stirring in my head.  It’s my challenge now to figure out a way to get people to hear me out (aka “squeaky wheel”).  As my new Twitter friend, Carol Roth (@caroljsroth), told me this morning,  “You go get that oil!”

Can I Kiss My Housekeeper?

Last night was the May meeting of the Social Media Club of Detroit.  This was my first meeting that I was able to attend and I’m so glad that I did!  The team brought in Gary Wohlfeill (@moosejawmadness), Creative Director at Moosejaw, a local outdoor clothing company that started in 1992 in Keego Harbor, MI and now with 7 stores total (including Chicago).

My first thought…wow, they get it.

I’d like to give you my takeaways from the meeting last night.  If you want the full recap, click here and read the notes Nikki Stephan (@estrellabella10) took and posted to SMCD Facebook page.  (Thanks Nikki!)

One of the first things Gary went over was the 3 key things Moosejaw focuses on to determine if what they are doing is good enough:

  1. Be notable – the stories that customers tell all their friends about
  2. Engage customers – it’s second nature to the company, they have been talking back to customers for years
  3. Orchestrate the brand voice

Moosejaw wants to talk to their customers.  Every marketing effort is focused on ensuring conversations begin with them.  It could be a funny text message…”I think my housekeeper wants to kiss me, can I do that?  Text me back and I’ll add 114 Moosejaw points to your account for help”…41% of recipients responded.  It could be a poll or survey.  Anything that will start a conversation.

More than anything, I walked away believing that brands need to have a personality.  Moosejaw likes to have fun with their customers.  They are generally willing to try anything to spark a conversation.  The web today allows for conversations to happen, even with a brand logo.  The trick is having that brand humanize itself.  People relate and converse with other people.  If you can get your brand to take on a personality, that allows relationships to be built.

It also helps that they have a loyalty program that rewards customers and gives them every opportunity to earn more points so they can redeem them for merchandise.

And one other thing…Gary responds to every e-mail he receives from a customer.  His thought is that if the customer took the time to write to him, he owes it to that customer to give a reply.  Yes, it’s time consuming but it shows that Moosejaw cares about the customers.

This is beyond Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.  This is their strategy.  Every decision involves the customer in some way.

So my thoughts automatically shifted to Buick and GMC.  Can we as a company take what Moosejaw has ingrained in their business culture and apply it to our business?  Do consumers see the personality of our 2 brands and can they relate to them?  Do we need to re-think our marketing and advertising strategy and adjust it so that customer experience and conversation is first and foremost at the front of everything we do?

I think yes.  Customers now have more control than they ever have.  The social web and word of mouth can be more impactful (both positively and negatively) to purchasing decisions and brand health.  So why not take care of the people that buy our products and give them a reason to talk positively about you?

Random Thoughts

A couple of things…

Over the last week, I’ve seen 2 really great examples of companies that are looking beyond ROI and profits to get their brands out to the public.  They are doing good in their community and allowing people to take a part in it.  Social Causes.  Volunteering.  Putting others needs before yours.  I truly believe that if we all just gave a little bit of ourselves to others, we could make such a huge difference in this world.  When I see companies that recognize this, I get really excited and want to watch how these things impact a community.  Take a look at what Starbucks is doing on Thursday, April 15th and what Chevrolet just kicked off this week.

The Big Picture, A Green Project from Starbucks

Building Diamonds and Dreams from Chevrolet, Major League Baseball and Scotts

If you’re still not convinced because you don’t there are any benefits, then check out this blog post from Tai Goodwin.  She lists 6 ways volunteering can boost your career.  These should at least get your mind thinking about doing some good in the community.

  1. It can fuel your passion
  2. You can practice new skills
  3. Volunteer your way into a potential job
  4. Volunteering is a way to expand your network
  5. Exposure to new ways of doing things
  6. You can use it as a team building experience

Topic 2:

I’ve become a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan.  He is passionate about customer service.  That’s how he’s made his living.  Companies should think about what he’s saying and if they aren’t doing some of the things he suggests, then do them.  In the video below, he talks about how today is a “what have you done for me lately” world.  It’s not about looking at research months after a promotion.  Tools like Twitter Search or Google Alerts can give you real time information on what people are saying about your brands.  It’s up to those brands to engage in the conversation.  Check it out.

Those are my random thoughts for the day.  I’d love to hear your feedback on volunteering and what Gary Vaynerchuk said in his video.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

I’m done with “Social Media”

I’m done with social media.  There, I said it.  OK, let me clarify.  I’m done with using the term “social media.”

This is something that’s been on my mind since I read a blog post from Umair Haque in the Harvard Business Review website last week (thanks Brandon Chesnutt).  In his post, Umair says, “Organizations don’t need ‘social media’ strategies.  They need social strategies: strategies that turn antisocial behavior on its head to maximize meaning.   The right end of social tools is to help organizations stop being antisocial.”

Here is my thinking…when I think about the word “media”, my mind automatically thinks about one way communication.  That goes against everything I believe “social networking” to be…relationships and NOT a bull horn.  I think about “paid media” not “earned media” which is what the social networking tools provide you.  When you use them to build relationships and focus on what the customer wants, people will talk about you positively.

I’m not sure if “social networking” is the term I’ll use yet.  I’m definitely interested in your thoughts.  What do you think?

“I don’t get Twitter!”

“I don’t understand Twitter?”

“I don’t care what people had for dinner!”

“What is the value of social media?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these statements made to me when talking about social networking tools and their value.  Well I’m here to give you 2 real life examples of how being active with social tools like Twitter have benefited me.

The first example is Gini Dietrich.  I’ve referred to Gini in prior posts but she is worth mentioning again because I think that highly of her.  She is the author of SpinSucks.com and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., a firm that uses non-traditional marketing in a digital world.  She and I were introduced through Twitter and have developed a great friendship and mutual respect for each others talents.  It also helps that we have the similar beliefs on why social networking tools need to become such a vital part of B2B and B2C companies.  The neatest thing about this was that I met her face to face for the first time today at a conference she was speaking at about social media.  What I learned about her through Twitter and Facebook was confirmed after meeting her in person…she’s smart, talented and if you are fortunate enough to know her, you’re lucky.

The second example is Bryan Willmert.  Bryan is the author of Soul Excursion, his personal blog where he says he “loves to dream big.”  He and I first started talking on Twitter but it was soon after that we met face to face.  He is the Service Director at my church, Kensington Community Church.  After talking briefly, I knew there was something about him that I liked.  We have different backgrounds but one particular thing in common…a passion for all things social media.  He “gets it” and why it needs to be a part of any communication to consumers today.  He and I have become pretty good friends and I’m very blessed to know him.

So there are my examples.  They don’t have anything to do with profits or ROI.  They deal with the true value of social networks…people and building relationships.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any examples of how Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn has benefited you?

I need an opinion…

I’ve seen a lot of research and blog posts on whether or not you humanize the brands you represent.  I’d love your opinion (by voting) on whether seeing pictures of people that work for brands on Facebook and Twitter helps you better identify with that brand or product.  Please vote and pass along to your friends.  I’d really like to see what we could do as Buick and GMC to get people more excited about our products and brands.  Thanks!  Polls close next Friday!

What’s your purpose?

“It’s not about you.
The purpose of your life is far greater than the your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even you happiness.”
~ Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

What is your purpose in life?  It’s a question that has come up a lot for me lately.  What is my purpose?  What is the purpose or mission of my marriage?  What is the purpose of the job I’m currently in?  What about the purpose of the brands that I work for…Buick and GMC?

To help me think through some of these questions, I asked a friend if I could borrow a book…The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  This will be a 40 day journey to help me discover “my purpose.”

As a side note…not really sure what it is with me and 40 day programs or 90 day programs.  If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ve been updating everyone on my progress through one of the best workouts I’ve ever done…P90X.  I just finished a book called The Love Dare.  This was also a 40 day journey on marriage.

Everyone has a purpose in life.  I know it has nothing to do with me but others.  How can the gifts and talents God gave me be used to help others?  It’s a question we all should be asking of ourselves.  Once I discover what that “purpose” is, I need to share it with others…

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
      And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

What is your purpose?  If I figure it out, I’ll let you know mine in 40 days…