A marketing deal with the CEO

shakinghandsYesterday I got a phone call from someone working in the marketing and social media department at a rather large company in Ottawa that operates internationally. This person, lets call her Christine, called me to pick my brain, as I’m working as a consulting partner for the company, about a task she was just assigned. Christine proceeded to tell me that her boss had walked into her cubicle telling her that by the end of the week he wanted to see 1000 more likes on Facebook. So Christine had called me asking me how to do that. Of course if you’ve been following along on here or know me at all you know what my response would be, why the hell does he need that number? To which she replied and this is what I heard: “blah blah blah wah wah wah….statistics…blah blah blah board members…important growth…wah wah wah.”

It took me about 10 minutes to tell her that I would be coming to visit very shortly and we could talk about the strategies very shortly in person. I also proceeded to book an appointment with the CEO and the Executive Board at the regular meeting.

A few days later and the evening had arrived, there we were all sitting around the mahogany table, even Christine was there much to her embarrassment and dismay (she didn’t think she belonged there.) The first point on the agenda was the companies outreach and their social media strategy. The first questions came from me: “what do “likes” on facebook me to you?” “what is your message on social media?” “what does social media mean to you?” Then I shut up and sat there in complete and utter silence. I laughed inside as the CEO and all the board members looked around the table at each other. They kind of looked like I was speaking another language, they didn’t know what I was asking. After probably 2 minutes of utter silence each and every one of them slowly turned their heads towards Christine and the CEO said “well Christine can answer that best.” Of course I knew she could answer it best but I wanted to know since it was so “important” to them what their answers were so of course I challenged him. “I know Christine can answer it but I’m just curious about what you folks think about social media and it’s importance in your company. Why are you using it?” was my response. Then corporate dribble spewed out at me. All I wanted him to say was that it was a chance to connect with their audience, to build relationships, to grow as a company, to understand their customers better, anything along those lines.

Now you know how the conversation went (how the conversation with every company I work with goes) and it was time to get to the point, the ominous question. Why did they need 1000 new likes on their facebook in such a short period of time? We talked about it and we had a really great discussion which I was very happy about.

The CEO was still very stuck on the idea that they needed this many likes really quickly so I offered him a challenge. He was keen to hear the challenge.

CHALLENGE GIVEN: Christine and I will get 1000 new likes if you do 1 thing for us. I want you sir to go out this week and meet and make friends with 1000 new people. 

Of course his response to me was “well that is crazy I couldn’t possibly do that.” My reply, “that’s right.” Then we got into the discussion about quality over quantity. Read more about my thoughts on that in an earlier post: It’s a numbers game

It can be rather easy to go out and get a bunch of “likes” for your company page but we, as human beings and especially as marketing and communications folks, have a big responsibility to educate people about what social media is. Not even really sure anyone has this answer but the one thing I know about social media and am very adamant about  is that it is a not a number producing factory. It is a place to be social, to share (NOT sell ALL the time), and to be a human being. 

Christine’s problem was resolved and the company is now on track to becoming more human like. They are sharing all kinds of interesting tips and tricks and sharing other people’s tips and tricks, heck their even admitting their errors on their own page and assuring customers that they are working hard to minimize those errors. Guess what is happening? Their numbers are growing, albeit slowly, but it is steady slow growth. Each and every one of their new “likes” or fans is becoming a part of the company.

Christine, the CEO, and even the Board Members are so much happier with their Social Media existence and they can’t believe how this new community is so supportive of the work they are doing.

Remember to put the social in social media

social_partyAbout a month ago I spoke at the Social Capital Conference in Ottawa around some of the play…oh ummm…I mean really serious work that I do. I was basically given a carte-blanche to talk about anything I wanted. I was thrilled when this opportunity came up because for far to long have I been working with clients who tell me “we do social media”. First of all I really dislike that wording. I dislike it because to me it brings up connotations that this is just another thing that people DO, that people check off on their lists to get business rather than immersing themselves in this technological marvel that is social media bringing us closer to way more customers than in any other time in the history of business. Social media is a veritable wasteland of all kinds of “HBD’s” (if you don’t know what this means write me a note and I will indeed share my biggest rant with you about this), “Like me for access to this coupon” , and “RT this awesome video pls”. I mean when I see these things and then hear companies say they are “doing” social media I just want to vomit. And I don’t just mean the little baby dribble version but rather the full on exorcist, head twisting, blasting across the room type (good enough visual for you?) “Doing” social media implies that it is just another task and that when the posts have been uploaded and updated then they are done for that day. Secondly to all those who tell me they don’t have TIME to “do” social media I say scream BULLSHIT. This one I actually cannot believe because for most of the groups I work with they have hired me because they are having some kind of challenge and it usually translates into not enough customers so obviously how they are spending time is not working so why not be open to change and try a new approach? Social media, if done properly is all about time. I often encourage companies to spend a whole day just browsing the internet. Read, watch, write, sit and follow a twitter stream for an entire hour (blasphemous!) . These are all little things that you can be doing to learn just a little bit more about how to engage. “But Shawn that is such a waste of time” I hear you saying. Is it? I mean really isn’t learning just a little bit more about your customers and your competitors all part of the world we live in now? If you can’t let yourself take a few hours or heaven for bid a whole day to explore then there is more wrong with your business than you think. I once had a business that told me they couldn’t have meetings because they couldn’t take 1 hour to close the store front. I forced it and in that 1 hour so many challenges were examined and resolved. 1 hour of dedicated time to understanding each other and some of the challenges the store was too busy to deal with on a regular basis were solved. Who knew? The store reopened and lo-and-behold it began to run so much smoother.

Perhaps one of the best readings I have come across when it comes to social media comes from a recently fresh pressed wordpress post from Tara Hunt in her piece: The Secret to Great Social Content 

When I saw the title I wanted to scream. There is no fucking SECRET. Believe me for so many years people have been coming up with formulas and telling people to post “x” number of times to increase their followings and drive more traffic. Post a certain number of pictures and you will be way more successful. More successful at what I’m not sure. I think the goal is to have 1 million followers. Does that mean you are successful? Do those numbers translate into relationships with customers? Are you selling more of your shit? Are you helping the world in anyway? I guess that is all up to you to decide. But that is not really what Tara was getting at in her post. Her big secret was to go with your gut. In particular my favourite line was:

“If you start using rules you stop using your instinct”

In Tara’s post she writes out 5 little tips (take note, NOT rules) that I completely agree  with and they are as follows:

  1. put down the content calendar and just hang out with your customers (AND your competitors’ customers) more. Not with a clipboard taking notes or with the desire to convince anyone to try your product. JUST CHILL and absorb.
  2. stop thinking of your audience as content consumers. They do not live for your ‘sharables’. They aren’t sitting with index fingers hovering over the like button, eagerly awaiting your next witty post. They have lives and you are a small, teensy part of their daily thoughts. If they don’t think of anything else other than you, you have a bigger problem on your hands.
  3. go to a movie, read a book, subscribe to blogs, skim through magazines — outside of your industry and outside of your comfort area. Embrace diversity and different points of view. Have conversations with people you would never dream of having conversations with.
  4. think really hard about what you are truly passionate about. What makes you laugh, cry, sing…what inspires you. What are you drawn to? Think about this honestly outside of the context of your business. Do more of that. Learn how to trust your instincts again and when they lead you astray…
  5. don’t fret. Some things will work and some things won’t. But keep going and learning from those mistakes. Take criticism with a grain of salt and start to learn what is constructive and what is not. Being experimental and open doesn’t mean you have to bend with every whim either. You’ll learn over time and hone that instinct beautifully.

So where does all of this lead us? For me social media is about just being social. It is about putting yourself out there in a way that you want to and about finding those that exist out there that you are compatible with and that you can help in some little way. I mean almost every company now has the media part down pat that is for sure. They are “on” facebook and they are “on” twitter and they are “on” every and all other mediums but when you look at their posts about their latest products, sales, or their last post was in 2010 it really screams that they are just “on” and nothing more. They are not actually being social, they are not actually engaging in these amazing platforms that help us make deeper, wider, and way more amazing connections than we ever could have before.

Being “on” social media but never updating it is like opening your store front and then going to the back room and never coming out to talk to customers.

So to that I say get the hell out of the back room and go talk to your customers. Don’t think that being “on” social media is good enough. You actually have to be social in order for you to grow. And believe me the more social you are and the more time you put in the more relationships you will build. You make some really interesting connections and who knows you may even come to know, appreciate, and love some of those amazing people we call customers. Holy shit you might even care and be able to make some money-wow what a world we live in.

My message at the conference, with the clients I work with, and right now just BE A HUMAN!