Social Media Marketing has a different approach than traditional marketing does (Ain't I good at stating the obvious?!). This is not due to any sort of altruism, but by a clear and simple business need. As people started having conversations, companies were left aside, losing influence, eventually loosing market share and, more importantly, falling in positive public perception charts and brand influence.
I won’t quote any comeback examples for this, those are well known: companies that were getting a lot of heat, started listening and acted accordingly. It paid dividends for a couple of companies so we witness how the trend becomes mainstream on a daily basis.
Why is social media marketing effective? Because it treats human beings not as potential buyers, but like people who do more in life than carrying a credit card. We all like to be treated in a special way, the small details matter. Mark noted this after a vacation. Personalized touches can mean everything. It can turn a detractor into a promoter, an angry and unpleased customer into a brand loving individual.
Of course such turnarounds are only achievable if words are backed up with actions. It is the combination of the human touch (saying “we care”) and a swift resolution (demonstrating “we care”) that makes this possible.
Customers with voice don't cope well with canned replies from a call center, or the rigidity of traditional press releases, just to give a couple examples. That model will not disappear, but rather reduce the place it occupies in companies. The great disadvantage of more human interactions is that they cost more. For example, a help desk employee that can try to solve an issue and think by himself is prone to require a higher salary that those that can only stick to a pre-written script.
The days of the automated customer and the automated reply are over. Technology has given everyone the potential to be listened. Sure enough, there are changes that will occur. As novelty wears off and ranting your guts out if you had a lousy experience with a company becomes mainstream the signal to noise ratio will, most certainly, change. Yet there is a lesson to be learned, a lesson that can be applied not only online but throughout all areas of a company that ever get to contact customers: the human touch, the one on one interaction is a powerful force that we have only started to unleash.
Social media in general is only bound to get more important in the future. The straight talk of blogs, the peer support of forums and the collective knowledge of wikis will only grow in importance over the next years. Being mainly human-driven activities pinpointing the right resources is as important as the ideas themselves. Building a blog, for instance, is relatively cheap an easy. Getting the right people that can talk in a way that reaches people is much harder. Individuals become key. Great individuals working together build great companies.
This changes should mean a profound change in corporate culture. The minute customers become more than just walking targets for cheap advertising for the decition makers a transformation in much of how we used to do business needs to change. If the change is just superficial, all text and no substance people will notice it and regard the efforts as what they are: lame attempts to mimic what others have done.
Part 3 of this series will deal with the approach to analytics under the light of this line of thought.
I am always amazed by how ideas can come from anywhere. That is one of the reasons why me reading interests can span anything from Astronomy to Linguistics.
One of Chris Locke's blogs, Mystic Bourgeoisie, had a reference to a BBC documentary called "The Trap". The 3 hour piece is far too interesting and far too long to make any good summaries in here. That being said, I shall share the concept that draw me to write this lines.
During the Cold War, mathematicians developed model of society based on game theory. For this model to work, the human beings are reduced to a simplified version of ourselves. This was latter applied as the theoretical basis for multiple government policies put in place during the 90's. I really recommend the documentary, wether you agree or disagree with the content, it is most certainly quite eye-opening.
Back in the corporate world an analogy can be drawn as well. For decades companies have regarded customers as little more than potentially-buying machines that can be manipulated into acting in the desired way by the means of advertising and marketing. The advent of Internet and social media have built greater complexity into this model. The relation between companies and customers is far more complex and far more difficult than it used to be.
For starters, the one-way communication model of traditional advertising seems to be sinking rapidly into uselessness. The never ending bombardment with TV, Radio and Print ads, billboards and, dare I say it, on-line advertising has made the mean population almost numb to such means of influence. There have most certainly attempts to insufflate some life back into traditional ads, viral being the latest. The funny thing is that Viral has to rely on the user's action to be successful, something that directly contradicts the old paradigm of "we talk, you listen (and buy)". Yet "viral" is still a traditional way of promotion in most senses.
While I was giving some thought to this concepts I couldn't avoid but thinking about Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series. In case you haven't read it, I'd say you skip the next paragraph, I'm going to spoil the story.
Asimov thinks about a future galactic empire that is swirling down in decadence. No one seems to notice that, but a group of thinkers, commanded by Hari Seldon, creator of the Psychohistory field of thought. Psychohistorians build mathematical models that can predict the future, thus they foresee the decadence and collapse of the empire and, more importantly, the dark ages that are to follow it. Their plan to reduce this dark times is to build Foundation, an encyclopedic world, a stronghold of knowledge, guided through the ages by the sporadic recorded messages of Hari Seldon, that appear every time a crisis is faced by foundation. All goes well until something that no model can predict happens: a mutant -the Mule- has the power to manipulate human brains at will. He overtakes over foundation and puts Psychohistorians plans at stake. A Second Foundation exists to deal with such issues, their field of work is not maths, but developing human's mental capabilities.
The shifts in paradigms are not an easy thing to cope with, the belief systems associated with them are usually deeply rooted within people advocating for them. change is not easy.
Part 2 of this series will deal with the social media aspect that surfaces from this line of thought.
6:30AM, dragging myself out of bed. I'm not a morning person, and ever since the Government decided to apply daylight savings time I'm still off the clock hours. It feels like 5:00 or 5:30 AM rather than 7. I quietly drag myself to the living room, power up the suspended ThinkPad and try to bring my senses back to life. It usually takes me about 1 hour to feel coherent enough to cope with any logical arguments. This time around I don't have that option it is already 7:00AM and I must dial into a conference number to talk to our guys in China.
Only half hour into the meeting (which I lead) I start to feel like I'm grasping some sort of sense and getting to communicate some concepts. Communication is a problem all by itself. In this instance I have an interpreter on the other end of the line translating my words into Chinese and asking the team's questions for me, then translating those back to English. The impression I always get is that when I say things like "This is not going to get approved" it'll get translated to: "we need more spaghetti".
It is not a minor task to try to bring teams from different parts of the world together. Language barriers and time zones are limitations that are hard to cope with. I don't expect people in China to talk in English (or Spanish), quite on the contrary I feel in debt because I wish I knew some Mandarin to enhance our dialogs instead. As for Time zones, I'll just say that wife has already learnt to ask when we can have dinner or go to sleep, since I usually have some appointment with the other end of the planet at the oddest times.
But it is all well worth the efforts, in most cases. There is such an underlying richness and potential behind the sheer fact of counting with all those differentiated human backgrounds that make me gladly do those things, even when I hate the world around me as I turn off the alarm clock at 6:30 AM for a conference call.
Cultural clashes are a significant portion of such interactions. What one can regard as a smart comment, or a funny allusion might be interpreted as insulting or not understood at all. Words must be chosen carefully and the tone in which statements are thrown out through the impersonal phone line must be well tuned and orchestrated. Engaging is also quite defying. I know how to wind up people in my own culture, but that does not quite work the same way for people with a completely different background. I struggle to motivate people from across the globe, people whom I've never seen in my life.
The difference that cultural background makes on the way people solve similar problems is a power that only a handful of companies are able to unleash. What usually happens is that a certain way of doing things is choked down the throat of everyone, the results are usually not pleasing.
If imposing methods and ways of doing things is not the answer, what would that answer be. To watch and learn. An acute observation of the subtle differences of a way people in distinct cultures work and interact can yield as a result some changes and tweaks on how to improve methods and processes to fit perfectly. It is only through that that a good result can be achieved.
I'll use an example that is close to me. Argentina is an odd country in many ways. Our everchanging political panorama, economic crisis and sparse resources force most of us to be in a continuous state of adaptation. Since there is not a maturity (from society or government) to plan with more than a couple of months we become great improvisers. Thus, semi-chaotic situations seem to fit best the "Argentine Breed". On the other hand long term planning and process set up are not our best strongholds and neither can we adapt well to structured processes (this, of course, is a very broad generalization, you get the point).
In a world where working with colleges with the most differentiated backgrounds is an everyday thing only those companies who are smart enough to adapt to the particularities of every place will have a leading edge in terms of service and production.
I have to admit that I love traveling. It is probably the gipsy blood that runs through my veins or something genetic, but I tend to get rather bored when staying for long at a single place (I moved houses a total 10 times so far... it would of been more if it was up to me). Although there are some things I could live without (like trading in 19 hour bus rides for 2 hour plane equivalents) I really enjoy being on the road.
This time I didn't go to a new place, but rather an old familiar one: my hometown Bariloche. I had to do some paperwork there (that Argentine bureaucratic timing screwed up) and I had the chance to meet with the rest of my family. All of it.
Although work didn't allow me to go around more the way I usually do, I did take some pictures from the bus and around some other places.
Out of 19 hours worth of traveling, the final 4 hours are worth almost all the effort. The route winds all around Patagonia following the Limay River. Some breathtaking scenes can be seen while circling around. (you can click on the images to get the full-size versions)
The one short trip we did was to the Lower Manso River. "Manso" means "calm" in English. I have always wondered about the naming policy, since the place is awesome for rafting, with some kamikaze-style rapids. We did go to a relatively calm place where it makes a turn and creates a Pool. I'm glad we bathed on the cold waters that day, since it was the last summer-like weather we would witness.
Upon returning home, we were delighted to get some very good Argentine BBQ (Asado), where the patagonic Lamb was the king
Overall, and despite the fact I worked normal hours, I had a relaxing time. I feel more energetic than on December and ready to cope with a couple of months before I head for a week's vacation. I'll post about that for certain!
I was 16 at the time, and was in the best shape ever. I had been consistently training for around 2 years, preparing for my debut in the Argentine Mountain Bike championship. I had had some moderately good results during the summer and was feeling confident looking towards the season opener that was due during Easter weekend, at my backyard, Cerro Catedral.
Less than three weeks before the actual event I hit a Toyota Pick-Up truck while on a descent through the main car road to Cerro Otto. Although I did land heads-on into the passenger seat (shattering the windshield and my bike) all I had was a right hand thumb dislocated. Still, that meant a month with a plaster and an additional 15 days with a splint. So much for my big-leagues mountain bike debut.
So did the winter arrive, and I was too disappointed to start a serious training. Not to mention the pain I had while trying to use the front wheel brake (the one that actually slows you down) while on downhills. Then I moved to Buenos Aires, and the rest is history.
I spent last week at Bariloche. Although I was not on vacation I had enough spare time to take my brother's brand new Specialized bike for a spin. Although I only did 2 miles of uphill I was happy enough by the fact that I didn't stop a single time. And I should mention that it was snowing. You read correctly. Snow in Mid summer, while in Buenos Aires people where suffering 100+ F temperatures I was up in a mountain while snow pilled up around me.
Such a short comeback to my beloved sport served two purposes.
- I am in a lousy shape. A 70 year old crack addict could beat me anytime. This leads to:
- I need to change my lifestyle. (A post on that will follow up shortly.
Another realization was that biking on a hardtail vs. a full suspension changes the sport. I spent half my downhill trying to get a clue on why wasn't I suffering every single pebble and root on the trail. Boy, have this bikes changed in the past 12 years.
Home sweet home. Over the past couple of weeks I've spent well over 60 hours in buses traveling around. That is over.
After a 22-hour bus trip worth of a horror film (with two passengers getting sick right there, and a small kid who yelled a good 14 hours) I'm finally safe and sound at good old Buenos Aires.
Spending time with the family was good. That does not happen very often in my life, since we're all scattered around. Having to work while doing so put my concentration to the test. I somewhat passed. I'd give it a C+.
This next couple of weeks promise to be a representation of the term "sweatshop". I might rant, but I actually enjoy deadlines, stress and a couple of tons worth of pressure lingering right above my head. Business as Usual makes me numb, I'll take a good crazy deadline and complex project anytime.
My soul staying at Buenos Aires up till the end of February, when I plan to take a short vacation.
I've survived another end of year, and, quite surprisingly I feel more full of energy now than in December. Impeccable timing, I'd say.
By popular demand a short story of how I was almost robbed.
In the 10 years I have lived in Buenos Aires I was robbed a total of 4 times. This would of been the fifth. None of them were pretty experiences, but, overall, I think I came out of all of them quite easily and unharmed.
Last Thursday, while getting back home from the Office by train I saw a group of youngsters that didn't look all that "honest". I was right. For my own demise they got off the train on the same station I did, and walked towards the same exit.
While we were all heading towards the Avenue this guys started staring at me and then asked "hey, what's on your bag". Ugh. I knew where that was headed.
So, this guys (5 out of about 10 of them) all surround me, my mind is burning with alternatives: how can I get myself out of this most annoying situation? All I could do was to ignore them and hold tight to my stuff. So I did. I put my back against a building and mentally prepared to give battle.
It was then when I had a blow of sudden and unexpected good luck. One of the guys had crossed the avenue and shouted to the rest of the gang to go and join them. So they did, and I made it out of the situation unharmed. Not a pleasurable experience, but, overall, it turned out not so badly.
According to our calculations it had been 12 years since we had this kind of attendance. So, for the first time in 12 years the whole bunch was together; brothers, sisters in law, nephews, nieces...
It has been fun. I know I haven't been very active on this blog lately, but there are some things on the forge. Stay tuned. (yes, yes, some are on Social Media)
- To get hit in the eye by a Squash Ball.
- To get your system rendered unusable by an unknown (out of nowhere) Virus.
- To almost break a finger with a door.
- To almost get robbed when getting off the train.
- To lose your cell phone.
All of it happening in less than 24 hours. It has been a long, awful day. I hope it does not reflect what 2008 will be like, or I'll have one horrid year.
It's more reassuring to think that I have condensed 1 year worth of bad luck in a single day.
Tomorrow I depart towards Bariloche for a week, thus trying to recover the system is out of the question, it'll have to happen when I return. For the time being I'll just backup a couple of files into a 512MB USB drive (thanks to Rescue and Recovery, I tell you I love the guys who created that tool) and survive with my T60p (personal) and the Linux TP.
If I weren't so tied up with work I swear I'd take next week off. I'm grumpy and frustrated. Guess having a weekend off and a 19-hour bus trip shall suffice to reset my mood.
That is how I feel: melted.
For those only familiar with degrees farenheit 39°8 C translate to 103 degrees F according to google.
My router went kaboom, and my brain is to follow. I just don't work well with heat. I had to set my ThinkPad's settings to power saving to reduce the heat it generated.
Lousy day not to be near my home's air conditioning.
(BTW, that a real shot of the TV screen)