Dropping the f-bomb – spreading the word

Social media has significantly changed the fabric of our society and a recent “slip of the lip” in which the f-bomb was dropped on air by New York news anchor Ernie Anastos provides a great illustration of the power of social media.

In case you hadn’t heard, Ernie coined the phrase, “Keep f#&*ing that chicken” (KFTC) during a live broadcast of local news.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdnXYWSa56w[/youtube]

The video was uploaded to YouTube multiple times and this version has garnered over 2 million views in less than a week.  The new catch phrase “hit” the Urban Dictionary five days later.  You can get it on a T-shirt or a mug -just in time for holiday gift giving. 😉

Within a week of airing, the phrase has officially become part of the American vernacular. My favorite definition:

Expression, 21th century American English

1) An expression to encourage one to continue with an undesirable or menial task.

Steve: I have ton of paperwork to do.

Ernie: Keep f#%&ing that chicken.

Live television has always been fun to watch – because you never know when a slip of the lip may occur. However, Ernie Anastos is not the FIRST television news anchor to drop an f-bomb during a live broadcast.  What makes this “news worthy” is the speed and ease with which this “news” has traveled illustrates the depth and breadth of the impact of social media on our society.

Think about it – if Ernie had uttered that phrase on air even five short years ago – it couldn’t have traveled this fast and this far this easily. Sure, a few Fox news viewers in the local market would have been amused – but the story probably would have ended there.

Think about the difficulty in distributing the video of this “faux paus” even five years ago.  Theoretically, it would have taken a few weeks to reach the likes of Eric Bauman -creator of Ebaum’s World – – one of the first “funny video” sites on the web.   Then, Eric would have uploaded the video to his server and his audience would have viewed it – and it probably would have ended there.  A few thousand views – a few thousand belly laughs- and the phrase would have become an obscure inside joke for a select group.

Fast forward to the “new” world of social media.  A news anchor drops the f-bomb on air and an alert viewer records the slip and uploads the video to YouTube.  Almost immediately, Gawker picks it up.   A day later, the Huffington Post blog “reports” on the slip. The Gothamist calls it an “irresistible catch phrase” and reports that Anastos has not be disciplined for dropping the barnyard based f-bomb.  Two million views on YouTube is just the beginning.  The story is multiplying exponentially online and offline and a catch phrase is being born.

This is the “power” of social media.  Fifteen years ago – television was an all powerful information “gate keeper” as were radio stations and newspapers.  Fifteen years ago – if you weren’t in the NYC area – you would have missed this story.   Fifteen years ago – if you wanted to communicate on a national level – you either had to have a more than a few producers and editors agreeing your message needed to be heard.  If you didn’t have that – you needed to have a LOT of cash to buy air time to distribute your message.

Today – the keys to the information lock have been freely distributed to everyone with internet access.   Got something to say?  Create a video with the web cam built into your laptop.  Then upload it quickly and easily to YouTube – and a couple of hundred of other online video sharing sites while you’re at it.  Tag it and then blog about it and wait to see if it “connects” with people.

The real “magic” is that ANYONE can do this now.  Information distribution is not just the job of geeks and it’s not limited to professional journalists.  Technology has provided the tools so ANYONE can now share information – freely and easily.

There’s something about the KFTC that “connected” with people.  It is naughty (there’s no doubt an FTC fine was levied on the station)- and it’s catchy.   While it’s not telling a customer service story or creating a social media shit storm like Dave Carroll did – it’s still connecting in a powerful way.  The difference between now and then – the traditional information gatekeepers aren’t dictating the path this story is taking – the “everyman” is.

Social Media Tells Customer Service Stories

transparency in social mediaWay back in 1980 – long before the days of the internet – in a time when “social media” meant a party organized around watching a sporting event on television – executives at Braniff had a problem.  They needed to find a way to differentiate their airline from other airlines.  The question they asked was simple,

“What can we offer to our customers that they will perceive as having high value yet costs us virtually nothing to provide?”

The answer to that question is what we now know as the “frequent flier miles” program.  It was a GREAT idea so  – of course, other airlines quickly copied the concept.   While in Braniff’s case it was a great idea which came too late – other airlines instantly recognized the brilliance of offering repeat customers an intangible which cost virtually nothing yet was valued highly by those customers.

The success of the customer loyalty programs in general is well documented.   Since the cost to acquire a customer is commonly accepted to be from 4- 15 times more than the cost to retain a current customer – finding a way to retain current customers by simply providing discounted fares – on seats that normally would be empty- was nothing short of a marketing miracle. When one considers that a business traveler may spend over a half a million dollars on airline tickets during the course of his/her career – it’s easy to see why frequent flier programs are a staple in the airline industry.   The airline industry as a whole has struggled over the past decade as the dual horrors of market maturity met national security for the sector.   However, while airline executives blame fluctuating fuel costs and labor woes on their troubles- a quick trip around the blogosphere reveals quite a different picture.

With the exception of South West – the major airlines are struggling to provide basic customer service – and customer service woes make GREAT blog fodder.  Dave Carroll created a social media shit storm with his “United Breaks Guitars” music video.  The creation of that video wasn’t the result of a single “dropped the ball” in the customer service department at United Arilines – it was the result of consistent and blatant disrespect of the customer.  No amount of frequent flier miles could placate Dave Carroll. On the heels of that debacle – United’s social media woes continued to make news when Wang Jianshuo – a famous Chinese blogger – documented his horrific experience in flying United Airlines.

Now  however – the customer service horror stories are moving from the plane to the computer and the lack of customer attention is infecting the very lifeblood of a major airline’s frequent flier program.   Matt Cutts documents his own Bad Experience with U.S. Airways Dividend Miles and the post does not paint a pretty picture for US Airways.  The post is acting as a sounding board for others who feel free to share their bad experiences inside a US Airways flight as well.  For those of you don’t know – Matt Cutts is Google’s “front man” who blogs frequently about how to get your web site to get better visibility with the search engine giant.

Talk about a worst case scenario when it comes to social media in action – if there’s one blogger I would HATE to have “bitching” about my business – it would be the man who is the front man for Google’s search.

The PURPOSE of the frequent flier program was to create customer loyalty.  By implementing this game of “bait and switch” – US Airway’s frequent flier program is beginning to look like a shell game.  Matt Cutts is blowing the whistle.  It will be interesting to see (if) how US Airways responds.

If there’s one thing business owners MUST know about social media – it’s the unadulterated view of your business it provides.  You can sit in your office, close the blinds and tunr off the lights and tellyourself that your vision of your business is shared by your customer.. However, a quick trip via social media airlines will give you the “real” picture.  Whether or not it’s a picture you want to see is another story.

If there’s one lesson for businesses big and small to learn from social media – it’s that your customers are talking just as they’ve always done.  However, thanks to social media – you now have an “insider’s view” of what’s being said when the customer service stories are being told.

When social media isn’t enough…

social media marketingLong long ago, Liz Strauss wrote the immortal words – “Your blog is not your business”.  Recently – I had a conversation with a client who learned that lesson – the HARD way.

“Amy” [not her real name] was referred to my business a couple of years ago.  The story behind how she came to me is very common – at least in my practice.  Years earlier, she had paid BIG money to a web developer to create a web site for her brand new business.  Because she didn’t know a lot about this strange world known as “the internet” she assumed that her web site would cause people to line up to hire her to do work for their business.  When that didn’t happen – she began doing some homework.

When she began doing her homework she learned that the search engines drive most of the traffic on the internet.  So, she typed in some words she thought people would use to find her business.   Her web site – the one she paid BIG buck (five figures) to have developed – didn’t show up.  So she tried some other words and her site STILL didn’t show up – ANYWHERE.  She contacted her web developer and asked what was up – and he told her to be patient.  Things like that take time, he said.  She she was patient – she waited a couple of YEARS and still nothing.

She began talking to other people and eventually had a conversation with one of my clients.  She contacted me and asked me to take a look at her site.  Long story short- even though her page LOOKED great through a browser – it had been cobbled together in such a manner that it was anything but search engine friendly.  Even though the site “looked” fine through a browser – that’s not how the search engines see a web site.  They look at the code – and in this case, it was a real mess.

She told me she loved the site and didn’t want to change the way it looked.  (I later learned the web developer is a friend of her husband’s and I suspect she didn’t want to have a show down with him.)  I assured her we could accomplish her objective in a much more cost effective manner by launching a self hosted WordPress blog to work in concert with her web site.

Her problem: she wanted her web site to be found in Google.  The solution: we launched a self hosted WordPress blog to act as “bait”.  She could link liberally to her “traditional” web site using the blog  and when potential clients found her blog – she could send them to her site to “close” the sale.

When you go fishing – it’s not realistic to expect fish to jump into your boat.  So, you take fishing poles, hooks and various bait to catch the fish.  We were going to set up her blog to act as bait.  Of course, because there is no such thing as “marketing magic”, Amy had to learn how to USE her WordPress blog correctly.  Amy is one of the inspirations for my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.  Her questions – combined with the questions asked by other clients – are the basis for the “curriculum” in the course.

Page One in Google

Recently, Amy contacted me.  Her blog articles had achieved her objective.  Her content is now appearing on the first page of Google’s results for her desired keyword – a fairly competitive keyword by the way.  However, if you think that the phone call was filled with rejoicing – it wasn’t.

Amy was disheartened and discouraged.  Even though she had achieved her objective of her blog content being found on Google’s first page – her business still wasn’t thriving.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t have a single client – and she had recently had to get a job to make ends meet.  She was ready to throw in the towel.

So, the first question I asked Amy was to describe her business model to me.  She launched into an exhaustive commentary on her marketing efforts.

“Amy, you’ve just listed the various marketing tactics you’re using to promote your business.  What is your business model?  How do you expect to make money from your business?”

“Well, people read my blog posts, go to my web site and then hire me.   I’m getting lots of traffic – but no one is contacting me to hire me.”

What followed was a distillation of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results In a nutshell – Amy’s business is engaged in making what is known as a Major Sale.  However, most of the “marketing tactics” Amy had been engaging in are only effective in marking Minor Sales.  Most of the sales/marketing advice you find (online and offline)  is geared towards  Minor Sale products, which is why Neil Rackham spent a small fortune and 12 years of his life defining and documenting the difference between Major Sales and Minor Sales.

When I first read Spin Selling – where Rackham documents his findings – I immediately recognized that many popular “marketing tactics” are geared towards making Minor Sales.  I’d been working with businesses on their advertising as an advertising account executive for over a decade when I first read the book – and it was truly an “aha” moment for me.  The Major/Minor Sale definition explained why marketing tactics – from radio remote broadcasts to midnight madness sales-  would work so well for one client, yet fail miserably for another.

Amy had been blogging with the goal of being found in the search engines.  She focused on creating creative blog post titles instead of creating relationships.  She didn’t recognize that once people found her via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with her so they could TRUST her.  See,  TRUST is an integral part of making the Major Sale – and social media is a GREAT way to build your business with social media– by establishing a relationship with potential clients and customers.

This  is why I cringe when I see an article which touts “the importance of search engine optimizing your Facebook profile” – or when I read someone touting Twitter or Facebook as the “quick easy way” to build your business.  Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are all tactics and nothing more.  Tactics are great when you’re on a mission to accomplish a pre-defined goal as part of a marketing strategy.  Tactics are exhausting when deployed using the “spray and pray” method of marketing.

When you read that “blogging” is dead – you’re probably reading the rant of someone who didn’t understand the difference between tactics and strategy.  A blog is a GREAT communication tool which – when used correctly.

This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”

Social Media Lesson: Reach out – Listen – Learn

social media's magic ingredientIn the post –What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media… I shared four valuable social media lessons business owners should learn from the life and death of the King of Pop.

The first lesson was that being first doesn’t mean as much as you probably think it does.   I’ve worked with many clients who drastically over-estimated how long and hard the road is when you’re truly blazing a new trail through the wilderness.  (They don’t call the LEADING edge the BLEEDING edge for no reason!)

The second lesson was the importance of reaching out – listening a learning.

In Creativity is Easier when you have a Partner – David Wright shares an AMAZING story of how reaching out -listening and learning helped him turn losing the only job he ever loved into not only a book but also a business (Collective Inkwell).

There’s a lot of value in the “community” aspect of social media.   There are lessons to be learned via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.

There are life lessons to be learned in social media – whether they be lessons from the road courtesy of Betsy Wuebker lessons in self defense from Lori Hoeck,  lessons in the art of possibility from Davina or  lessons in laughter from Lance.  You could live five lifetimes and not accumulate half of the life lessons shared in those just four blogs.

There are POWERFUL business lessons to be learned  as well.  Liz Strauss writes intriguing, instructive posts teaching CEO’s how to correctly “view” social media.  In Could You Be a Chief Executive Social Gardener? she models through words AND actions social media’s real value for brands.

Social Media can show BOTH sides of the story

New business owners can learn from experienced leaders in their field who freely share their expertise via social media.   Tom Volkar shares freely his insights on starting a new business- the RIGHT business for you with posts like Why Rock The Boat?

However, once you’ve chosen your business – you need practical advice as well – from those who have “been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.”   For exmaple, David Airey shares his words of wisdom about his own formula for design pricing.  However, if you’re a designer there’s also a wealth of information from those who are struggling with the process of finding the “right” designer…as Sara Healy does in her post The Still Small Voice Was Right.

Social Media showcases both success and failure

We all love success stories – but sometimes those success stories don’t give us the full picture.  Jason Cohen has written a WONDERFUL article on how most business “advice” is flawed  because it generally focuses exclusively on the “success” side of the coin.  In Business Advice Plagued by Survivor Bias he shares what is possibly the most illustrative word picture of how focusing on the success may actually cause you to miss the most valuable business lessons of all.

The “traditional” media is obsessed with success… to the point where they’ll gloss over the time, energy and failures that go into building a successful business.  However, in the social media arena – most bloggers are more than willing to share their failures as well as their successsed  as Barbara Swafford has done in Bloopers, BooBoos and Ideas That Went Bust.

Social Media may have more in store for us than just valuable lessons

social media saves the worldThere’s a lot to be learned from social media – but Danny Dover makes a case for Social  Media  my be a key to Saving the world. Dover reveals in this post:

Social media has the potential to become the greatest early detection system that the world has ever seen. It is faster, nimbler and has more access to user data than any traditional search engine.

Social media is powered by all of us individually. Because of this, you have the ability to make a positive difference.

When Michael Jackson died, I read somewhere that the server hosting one of the breaking news web sites had at one point 42 hits PER SECOND.   That’s a lot of people seeking information from a single source.  Fortunately, that information “disseminated”  quickly – much to the relief of a server admin I’m sure – but it shows how BIG this world is and how connected we are thanks to social media.

This is why I “cringe” when someone wants to reduce blogging to the mere act of “lead generation” and “lead conversion”.

It’s not that I’m against making money – or even evaluating what marketing tools are “working” and which ones aren’t.  It’s just that trying to put an ROI value on social media is not only premature- but possibly pointless.

As you can see here – there are a lot of GREAT lessons – both life lessons – and business lessons – being shared via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.