Monthly Archives: March 2009

It’s called Social Media for a reason

I have just been flicking through a book called “Social-Media Marketing” and, in my humble opinion, the title strikes me as a contradiction. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if the title was what drove you to buy the book, you’re starting on the wrong foot. Don’t get me wrong, I support what Social Media Marketers set out to achieve, but sometimes a better title for what actually happens would be, “Social Media Advertising”. No one would buy a book titled “Cold Calling Your Close Friends & Tips to Make Them Buy!” or “Turning your Relationships into RelationSHOPS!”, it just doesn’t work like that. Well neither does the Social Web.

(hehe...myspace.)

The tide is turning. More and more value is being put on contribution and relationship. A new, web-savvy and advertising-shy generation is emerging and they don’t need to take your word for anything anymore. They will, however, give their Permission to Influence to those who have proven themselves through contributing to relationship.

I can only shake my head when I see companies getting involved in the Social Web but treat it only as another channel for news and sales pitches. They are the ones that will, sure-enough, follow everyone on Twitter who follows them (that’s just good twitiquette), but they only ever broadcast company lines and marketing buzzwords. Try to ask them a question or get support for their product and it’s a never-ending black hole (hint, hint TomTom!).

If businesses really want to leverage Web 2.0 to their advantage, it comes down to one thing: making friends the old-fashioned way. That means actually involving yourself and making a positive contribution. It may not pay off in one day…but give it time and you will have a genuine network of support that will provide PR for you that money just can’t buy.

That’s just my 2 cents, anyway. Have any examples of businesses doing it right (or wrong)? Let me know!

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The Social Web for Community-Based Organizations – Pt 1

The Social Web, Web 2.0…whatever you want to call it, it is a dream come true for every community-based organization (nonprofit or not) IF they can use it right. It’s also one big “I told you so” for the NPOs, activists and punk-rawkers who have been singing the same ‘power-to-the-people’ tune for decades. It turns out that the best ideas really do win in the end…but I digress.

I don’t think it matters if you run a gym, a church or Starbucks; if your focus is on “people first, the coffee second” you will always be looking for better ways to rally people to your flag and, at the same time, listen to their needs so you can serve them better. So how can today’s community-based orgs utilize the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the Internet?

I won’t go into detail about the definition of Web 2.0 and nor will try to list the infinite number of social web tools that are available (mainly because a quick google or wiki search will take care of that but also because I might reveal very quickly the reasons why I am not getting paid for this). What I will do is take the next few entries to give a few of my own, short opinions on how community groups might be able to make use of some of the tools available on the interwebs.

Lets call it an experiment to see what is out there and how people are using it. Send me your links, ideas, suggestions and dreams and we’ll see what happens…

 

(twitter: @bcrab)


The end of the beginning

Well this is it everyone. The end of the beginning.

We’ve been celebrating the internet coming of age for a little while now so this must the be the final fireworks of a very long party. The end of the internet as we have known it is upon us as we begin to witness the birth (or evolution) of something greater. ‘Web 2.0’ doesn’t cut it, nor does simply naming it the ‘Social Web’. It’s bigger than email, Google and Facebook and where is stops, nobody knows.

The great mountain of Media, which has been controlled by a small and powerful few, has already started crumbing while the mountain of popular opinion and social chatter is pushing farther upwards. The reach of the rich and powerful is now giving way to the influence of the small and insignificant. It turns out all those geek movies were truer than we all thought…the strong are now at the mercy of the smart.

What will happen now is anyone’s guess. For me, I’m going to look for the disappearance of email altogether. Possibly replaced by IM’s or streaming video messages (but who knows). I am also keeping an eye out for the abolishment of TV as we know it. Pretty soon our set-top boxes will be nothing more than wireless modems continually streaming all the programs we want to watch and mixing in the occasional vid from a friend (replacing email, remember?). Facebook, Twitter and the like will soon disappear from view as that sort of media will be absorbed by osmosis into every site we visit. A small glance at Facebook Connect and you’ll see this already starting! We won’t GO to a site like Facebook because Facebook will be in every page we go to. We won’t call it ‘the social web’. The Web is just what it is…

So enjoy the rest of the party, turn off the lights on your way out and keep an eye out for some amazing things just around the corner!


Value is the new Black

Nowadays, we are all looking for added value and if we can’t see it, we’re walking away. More and more store owners a closing their doors early because they can’t find ways to drive more sales. Starbucks stores in Seattle (yes, Seattle…the birthplace of Starbucks!) are closing earlier each day because people just are not buying coffee. The answer is staring them in their face. Add value. You don’t even have to lower the price of something to add value to it. Here is five things I would do before resorting to shutting the doors early. 1. Rewards. Buy 5 coffees, get one free. That’s essentially taking about 35 cents off each drink but will actually drive more sales than simply lowering your prices. Why? Added value. 2. Live jazz nights. If your store has to close at a certain time because you have no customers…make that time THE time to be there. Find some local, undiscovered talent and let them play in your cafe. They get the free play time and can sell their garage-band album and you get to give your customers the awesome atmosphere. It’ll sell. Why? Added Value 3. Education and Diversification. Don’t forget your other products.Teach your customer’s how to make Starbucks-Style Caramel Macchiatos in their own home and then you can sell them the machines, beans and syrups. When they realize they can make their favorite drink at half the price, they’ll love you. Why? Added Value 4. Fun Friday, Cheap Tuesday, Mad Monday…call it what you want. If you really want to lower your prices, this is the only time a sale will add value to a product. You pick a day, give it a fancy name and create an event out of it. Put up streamers if you feel like it and get your staff to wear a funny hat. You could also do this as a ‘After 6pm’ deal, too. 5. Finally, combine them all. On Tuesday night, after 6pm, drinks are half price and you can enjoy the music of local band XYZ while we teach you how to make cappuccinos. Buy five drinks on the night and get one for free. The moral? If you’re a customer, keep looking for that added value and if you can’t see it, ask for it. If you’re a store owner, make your competition irrelevant by adding more value and giving your customers an excuse to buy from you and not the next guy.


Don’t Be Evil

Google’s unofficial motto, “Don’t be Evil,” seems to shine as a light in the darkness of an otherwise seflish and…well, ‘evil’ world.

It is interesting to note that in a time when moral values seems to take on a more personal (read: ‘postmodern,’ read: ‘bias’) meaning, the word ‘evil’ could have several different definitions.

One thing is for sure; almost everyone is against it. At least, everyone is against their own view of evil. If only we could agree on what that is.


If I Can Do It Better…

During the winter holidays, I spent some time in what would probably be considered one of the best ski resorts in Australia. I use that term loosely because I would also suggest the title ‘best ski resort in Australia’ would have more to do with the lack of ski resorts and less to do with how good this resort actually is. Every building I saw could be aptly described as a claustrophobic, 70’s rerun and gave me an overwhelming sense that I was getting dirty just looking at it…and this was the best Australia had to offer? The only thing of any quality came from the hand of God and that was the mountain itself.

I wondered why no one else seemed to notice. Have we become so desperate that we are willing to accept the first offer we are given with no thought to what we are actually paying for (or if it is even worth it)? 

I am not talking about haggling with a shopkeeper to get the best price for a pair of shoes or that nice purse that you would buy right now if it were only $5 cheaper. This is about raising the bar across the board and letting the owners and proprietors of shops, hotels, cafes, restaurants and ski resorts know that we are not going to settle for paying a high premium for lower than average products and services. I don’t expect everywhere I go to charge obscenely cheap prices but I would like to see some value equal to the price that I am paying. 

 

By the end of my aforementioned ski holiday, I came to one conclusion and I would like to challenge you with this question: If you walk into a café, hotel, or ski resort and think to yourself, ‘I could have done this better.’ Why the hell would you give them your money? After all, these guys are supposed to be the pro’s!

 

I know what you’re thinking; you may not have a choice. I didn’t have too much choice of where to ski after driving for six hours to get there, but I DO have a choice of where I will go next year! 

I would like to think of myself as a down-to-earth kind of person and as such I appreciate good value and I hate that feeling you get when you are dealing with cash mongering, money grabbers who care for nothing other than their own profit margin.

 

Out of a sense of duty, I will shop elsewhere.