JRManifesto – The Longevity Of Social Touchpoints

As I’m riding the commuter rail from Worcester to Boston on my way to catch my flight back to Boulder, I saw some really cheese-ball ads on and off the train that made me think about the “measurable” associated with community management development via social media. Where do you measure your impact or ROI?

I think the perspective of what a well developed social community is important in deciding whether a business should invest money into a social media strategy.

My perspective is this: the value of a single perceived interaction between a brand and a consumer through social media is greater than if a person drives by a billboard advertisement 100 times in a year.

The social media space allows for numerous dynamic engagement opportunities for brands to reach out to their current and potential consumers. There are a huge array of tools that allow you to monitor conversations that are directly or indirectly related to any idea, keyword or brand or person.

Some would say that there is too much “noise” in the social media space, even though it is so new to our world. I’d say the noise is negligible for brands and consumers because of the ways we listen. There are countless radio frequencies, television channels, billboard ads and other types of invasive, one way attempts of communication. People can’t shut their eyes when they drive past an advertisement, so they tune it out, ignore it and maybe even develop some resentment towards the brands that use hokey, tasteless ad techniques to get your attention for a split second.

There are plenty of goofballs in the social media space. It’s literally impossible to grab a hold of every message that is being sent out through the numerous channels. But, the difference between traditional advertising and social media community development is that people are purposely tuning in when they turn on their computers and some so finely that they’ll seek out exactly what they need and want through search engines.

So when a consumer signs up for Twitter or Facebook and starts to figure out how information flows and which tools to use to seek out specific keywords, hashtags or web-pages. If that consumers eyes come across your presence in social media without any sort of potential for engagement (a.k.a. you haven’t tweeted since 2009 or every message in your timeline consists of a link back to your blog and no @ replies), they will move on and find some other brand to buy from.

An example I like to use is of a national retailer that I’ve been a life-long customer of, L.L. Bean. My backpack broke after many good years of use and I happened to Tweet about how my stuff fell everywhere on the train. I mentioned L.L. Bean in the Tweet and within several minutes, their PR manager @ replied me reminding me of their return policy and that I could get a new bag whenever I wanted. It’s not like L.L. Bean was following me on Twitter and monitoring every little thing I said on a daily basis, but clearly they had some sort of keyword searches running so that when something like a broken bag or customer service issue came up, they could hop right on it and fix it.

I’ve always been a fan of L.L. Bean for the most part, but the fact that their PR person reached out to me the way she did and to this day will interact with me if I shoot her a message means that I’ll be more loyal to them than other retailers that have no channel of contact beyond stepping in line at customer service or calling a 1-800 number.

All businesses are competing for consumers short attention spans in one way or another. It’s like the eternal battle between good and evil, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Soy Milk vs. Dairy. Something can be sail for clever ad campaigns that touch the hearts of people during prime-time like those mommy-focused Olympic commercials, but most businesses can’t afford that kind of exposure and it’s probably a better idea to make some friends on Twitter and Facebook than it is to pay thousands of dollars to annoy your potential customers with cheesy billboard ads and radio commercials on their morning commutes.

Every conversation = impact. Every dollar saved on traditional advertisement = ROI

Fresh Findings Friday: Normality (Does Not Make A Prince)

Today I am featuring a post written by a friend who I met 20 years ago in first grade. We rode up from Worcester, MA together to watch our mutual friend get married. I’ve always known him to be a really intelligent writer and awesome person, so here’s your chance to see it for yourself:

I often wonder, what exactly is normal? As defined by an anonymous friend of mine it is ” what everyone thinks everyone else is, but each person themselves isn’t”. But before you dismiss what I have to say as nonsensical jargon and ramblings I would like to state for the record that I HAVE NEVER “BLOGGED” and yes, you read it right when I put those words in capital letters. The all began on a night in Canada, after a friend of mine and me had an alcohol-influenced heart to heart conversation about life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. (in which the movie itself is the premise of our main discussion) Well, not exactly, but we had somewhat of a drunken heart to heart. He basically told me to find something that I was passionate about and strive for it. Here is where I bridge the gap: I feel that the ideas and passions that I have are not “conventional”, “normal”, or “mainstream” but perhaps i’m just being to quick to make assumptions and generalize. Perhaps there ARE OTHER PEOPLE WHO FEEL THE WAY I DO. Maybe that may come as a sigh of relief and I guess it is.

Within the past few years of my life I have discovered the education of others and writing as passions. Hmmmm, how can I fuse the two? perhaps I can teach, which I do but more importantly, TEACH THROUGH MY WRITING. So if you want to hear some “abnormal”, “unconventional”, or “non-mainstream” (is that a word? who cares?!??) ideas maybe you can ask me how I feel, and I’ll tell you. I’ll be more than glad to educate the masses, or DUMBASSES, with my diction and maybe spill some fiction through the writing I compose wether poetry or even prose. Yes, I rhyme. And how I do it is not “normal”. I’m not trying to impress just give you a sample of abnormal writing. So if you want to know my opinion on God, Mercury, Mars, or binary stars, just ask. I’ll answer to the best of my abilities and i’m CONSTANTLY LEARNING (which I think is abnormal because people either are close-minded in their beliefs or research things to re-affirm their beliefs rather than “expand their horizons”). Keep this in mind about me, I’M NOT PERFECT, BUT I CONSTANTLY EVOLVE BECAUSE I STRIVE TO, THE MORE I LEARN THE MORE I REALIZE HOW LITTLE I ACTUALLY KNOW, and that’s REAL TALK. If you want to debate, we’ll debate, but only if you’re MATURE enough not to resort to petty name-calling and personal low-blow mudslinging. If you want to rap battle cool, I’m wit it too, for those that r dim-witted fools. See, I told u I wasn’t normal, but then again as I asked before, what is normal?

By now you have figured out that my prose/poetry/writing style is a little unorthodox, that’s fine, I think outside the box. Sooo I’M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR LIKE-MINDED, STRANGE, AND INTELLIGENT PEOPLE TO DISCUSS W/ SOOO…..you can do the corny Facebook thing and huh…..find me and shit…Prince Ekeson, email prismann1@aol.com SEND A PERSONAL MESSAGE, hit me up….I’d want to hear your views as much as you’d want to hear mine, fuckfaces. But before you do, ask yourself “AM I NORMAL?” but more importantly, “WHAT IS NORMAL?”

Further From Home

16 hours of traveling, starting at 2:30 AM GMT and ending at 6:30 PM EST, I still managed to get out, see my mom, sis, her boyfriend and my good friend. Thursday I drive 12 hours North to see an old friend get married to his long time partner. Then I drive back to MA and head back to Colorado sometime in the middle of next week. Whirlwind baby!

Walking about an old, beat-down part of Worcester, I felt like Roy Munson returning to his home-town in Iowa in the movie Kingpin. Except it felt cool.

I haven’t been home since April. Not that long of a time, all things considered, but it’s felt like an eternity with everything that’s happened since the last time I came home. Amazing, life-changing things that I never saw coming and couldn’t be more grateful for.

But I’m also grateful to have gotten a pizza with my buddy at favorite pizza spot, go downtown for a few drinks and wake up and run about 5 miles in the pouring rain (something I never would have seen myself doing a year ag0).

Some people never leave home. Some people leave and never go back. I’m glad I defy both of those categories.

Hope you’re having a great week.

Fresh Findings Friday: Ack, Ack! Greg Bagni Speaks Martian and Marketing To Humans

When I first met Greg Bagni in person at a coffee shop, he prefaced our conversation with “I’m not from here. As in – I’m not of this planet.” I found it humorous and slightly perplexing, but an hour later after a whirlwind of conversation that fluttered around topics like the nature of the universe, clean-tech and general marketing, I realized that Bagni had a high-altitude perspective of this planet and it’s goings on.

While his Tweets (@bagni) consist mainly of his lessons in numeric order, their advice can be summarized as tips on relating to humans, even if you feel like an alien. Also considering the fact that he served as the Senior Vice President of Schwinn Cycling and Fitness and has been a branding and marketing consultant for many heavy hitter brands, you’ve got to take some of this stuff to the bank.

But don’t take my word for it, check out his Twitter page for yourself and let him know what you think!

Some of my favorite Tweets:

r#275:good leaders aren’t readers, they’re writers. now to just be able to expand on more tan 140 words at a time. ha

r#267:if you ever worked retail you’ll know that humans rarely tell the truth

r#263:figured out today only good at two things. riding bike and staying married. both miracles of movement and momentum. ::))

I’ve been on Twitter since May 16 2008…

I’ve been on Twitter since May 16, 2008. As of today, I have 3,346 followers. Last month I had over 3,400 followers. I’m hemorrhaging followers at a pretty steady basis on a week to week basis. To some people, it would be quite alarming to lose that many followers. I mean, imagine losing 60 friends in a month? What’s worse, 60 customers?!?!

I signed up for a service that emails me every day with all of the people who un-follow me. Sometimes it’s not a surprising list of folks who’ve decided my Tweets aren’t worth their time anymore; mostly spammers, brands, people who’ve bought huge lists of influential people to follow en masse and then automatically un-follow if that person doesn’t follow back within a day. I don’t bat an eye. Then every once in a while I’ll see someone has un-followed me that I know as an acquaintance or maybe even as a real life friend. My reaction at this point is usually “what the fuck? Why’d they un-follow me?” Maybe I wrote a guest post for them within the last few years, connected them with a contact in our industry or maybe I gave them props on something they did. Why would someone un-follow me?

The first impulse might be for people, including myself at one point, to try and find this person on email, GChat or whatever and ask them what was up. It’s like in middle-school when you find out you weren’t invited to a sleep-over. You feel a little rejected and hurt and want an answer.

So the answers, when I first started asking “why did you un-follow me?” usually consisted of “I’m so busy, I just can’t follow everyone these days and needed to pare back.” Or, I get the semi-entertaining response of “you tweet too much. I can’t deal with it.” Maybe I’m offensive (my account is personal and I speak freely) or maybe I don’t provide enough value. Who knows?

Regardless of losing more followers on a monthly basis than some people can acquire over several months, my social media statistics keep going up. If someone ever calls me out or complains about something I do via @-reply or private DM, I always respond and address whatever the issue is. I’ve never bought into an auto-follow program, I’ll never beg people to follow me and if someone decides I’m not entertaining or informative anymore, I respect their choice and turn my cheek.

But, I should mention that I’ve gotten some followers back without sacrificing my dignity. I don’t automatically un-follow every person that un-f0llowes me. I keep some un-followers around because:

  • Some people are simply worth following whether the interact with you or not. Their insight, humor or general presence are valuable enough to keep around even when un-reciprocated.
  • Sometimes you fall out of touch un-intentionally.

I find simple re-tweet or giving someone props in an @-reply is enough to at least garner a response, if not a re-follow. You may not be BFF’s again (you probably never were BFF’s to begin with), but having touch points with people who you want to have touch points in a social setting, even if they are superficial, is really what social media is all about.

So what story does this anecdote tell? I’ve got 3,348 followers and I personally follow 3,119 people. I may not be the best at building a Twitter following, but I am good at building relationships and adding value. Outside of a handful of celebrities, authors, artists, athletes and specialists that I follow who will probably never follow me back, I have reciprocal Twitter followings. I distribute content, interact with individuals and value good insights and people who pay me a moment of their attention.

I suggest to get the most out of Twitter, use it to build relationships, not an army of mute faces that may or may not advocate for your brand.

The Late Tero “Camu Tao” Smith’s King of Hearts LP

Today marks the release of King of Hearts, the LP by Tero Smith, aka Camu Tao who passed away two years ago from lung cancer.

King of Hearts is a collection of unreleased material that Camu Tao was never able to finish due to his illness. A group of long time friends took a lot of his raw vocals and beats and made time to master the sound and polish over some of the truly gritty, genre bending music that Camu Tao was known and loved for.

Camu, a Columbus, Ohio native really had not only an original sound, but more like a sound that nobody knew or knows what to do with to this very day. Pop bands like The Black Eyed Peas talk about being on “some futuristic shit” but Camu really was. Rumors have it that Camu’s unique brand of singing, screaming, rapping (he was an incredibly talented emcee) partially stemmed from the fact that he was deaf in one ear and had no idea how out of bounds his tone, melody and harmonies were. They were not “traditional” sounds but they’re amazing all the same.

I’ll never forget the first time I listened to the song “Oxycontin” on El-P’s Bomb The System soundtrack.

I had heard Camu Tao rap on some of Aesop Rock, El-P and Cage’s songs before, but I had never heard him sing. Oxycontin is a heart wrenching song about seeing someone close to you continue to kill themselves with drugs and neglect. That was the song that had me hooked as a fan forever. Then I couldn’t get enough and found all of his work. I had to have it.

Survived by his long-time girlfriend and fiancee, the proceeds from King of Hearts will go towards covering the astronomical medical bills that came from Camu’s long battle with cancer.

I’m not sure how long this free, streaming version of the CD will stay up, but if you want to give it a preview before you buy, check it out. I’m not getting affiliate money or anything from this, I just absolutely love Camu Tao’s work and am truly grateful that this work will get to the ears of his fans and people who’ve never heard of him alike.

You can also buy a copy of the album in its various forms (vinyl, digital, CD, etc) here.


Keeping Tabs On Who Looks Out For You

Last Friday a little video I recorded was featured on Brazen Careerist’s series about tips for a successful career.

Check it out:

I think success is relative, but whatever strides I’ve made and shall continue to make can probably be attributed to this mentality. When someone helps you out or shows interest in your success, let them know you appreciate it, even if a “thank you” is all you’ve got for now.

Fresh Findings Friday: Jeff Rodriguez’s Jigsawdust

This week’s Fresh Finding is Jigsawdust, a blog by a new friend Jeffrey Rodriguez. I met Jeff at a lunch meetup when the Way Below Status Quo hooligans were coming through town. We hit it off when he started naming movies off that were his favorite (Oldboy being one of them) and we got to talking about religion, literature, human sexuality and education, all things I’m quite interested in.

Luckily for you and I, Jeff has a blog and writes about these topics as well. I hope you’ll stop by, leave a comment and provoke him a little!

JRManifesto – My Thoughts On Social Community and Relationship Building

You know the really sharp dressed man or woman at the networking events that have expensive clothes on, start name dropping, passing out business cards, talk to everyone (they actually won’t shut up) and don’t listen to a word you say when you actually try to interact with them? Yeah, those people are kind of lame. Brands who do that are lame too and what’s worse, is they’re wasting money on social media campaigns and employees sending out messaging in all the wrong

Relationships do not scale. I live by this rule in my personal and professional life. I’ve worked for or consulted with several prominent companies in the social media space and I’ve seen all sorts of stumbles when it comes to either relationship building or maintenance.

Big brands get excited about Facebook pages because you can essentially post content to them and have anyone that “Likes” your page comment or continuously “Like” whatever you say or post. Facebook pages essentially alleviate some of the measuring and ROI issues that you have with Twitter. With Twitter, you can pulse messages into the ether and anyone who follows your updates can respond in kind. But Twitter relationships always fade when a company acquires lots of followers (thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands) and start Tweeting PR-esque sound bites to the universe without interacting with the people who Tweet back.

Granted, you cannot interact with every person whom you’ve established a connection with on a consistent basis, whether on social media or in real life. But, some sort of connection pathway must exist in order to keep the initial encounter from withering up and dying.

Here are my main tips in relation to the tools in establishing and maintaining relationships via social media:

  • Blogs have been, are and should continue to be the home base of your brand’s social messaging. You don’t need to post every day (though you should have a regular posting schedule) and you don’t need to write case studies and have epic, 1200 word pieces every time, but continuous and dynamic posts of branded content are so important to keep your brand feeling alive and active to the outside world.
  • Twitter has been a god-send for my personal brand and I’ve known some companies who just absolutely kick ass at using it strategically (L.L. Bean ranks among the best). Twitter is a channel for you to distribute content. Twitter is a place to acquire new customers and relationships. Twitter is not a place to come and bull rush an audience development plan and acquire thousands of followers over night (often by shady means) without having Tweeted @ someone, ever. It’s okay to admit that you can’t be everything to everyone and have conversations with every person who follows you on Twitter, but paring down your community to people who influence your brand and who (you should be thankful and grateful for) are influenced by yours will make it much easier to acknowledge individuals, rather than speaking in generalities to a mob of un-interested bystanders.
  • Facebook allows you to have an ongoing portrait of the interactions between your brand and your “Likes.” You can continually post witty quips about industry news, your clients or your employees and initially get some responses from the people you email blasted to come join the conversation, however, if you don’t actually respond once in a while to comments or conversation strings on your page, engagement will falter over time no matter how interesting your content is. The distinct advantage to having Facebook as a content distribution channel (driving traffic to your blog or elsewhere), is that you can also develop conversations on your walls, which are visible for all to see (for better or worse). Keep branded content flowing on your Facebook pages and ask a quirky or relevant question every now and again to your “Likes.” Those interactions mean something to followers of your brand and they’re also demonstrative to the rest of the world that you listen and interact.

These are just basic tips that I’m offering and may or may not sound like common sense to people both in and outside the social media marketing space. However, I’ve literally seen hundreds of brands mess this up and try to keep up with the Jones’ by setting up social media accounts in haste and not taking the time to understand what the hell they’re going to do with them.

Having a good product or service to market is a whole other topic, but only you can answer if what you’re selling is worth buying.

Life’s Steady Footing

Being afraid of feeling pain keeps us from being active. I would have never discovered the joys of running, boxing, grappling, hiking and I also would have never known the threshold of pain I possessed and what I can push through and when and why I should stop something. The solidity of our points of reference in life are the only currency we can truly carry as our own in a world where false claims and exaggerated comparisons are made to make a buck or gain advantage every day. If you’ve been there, then you’ve done that. You know better.

Growing up I had really weak ankles and rolled them pretty regularly while playing sports that my mom insisted I try. Soccer, baseball, football all left me with swollen, twisted ankles each season. So, eventually I figured I just had bad ankles from my genetic tree and reserved myself to being un-athletic. Then I tried the swim team. I wasn’t particularly good, especially compared to my little sister Tamsyn who could smoke me in her sleep when it came to racing in the pool, but I found a sport that didn’t require constant pounding on my ankles and I strengthened my legs to the point where I didn’t sprain my ankles so much.

I saw parallels in my life when it came to my ankles in both physical and personal examples all throughout growing up. I wasn’t particularly good at something and would get so mad at myself because I couldn’t compete with kids at a particular task in school. Math, science and even my strongest suit which is reading and writing. The act of mastering a structured way of expression left me feeling frustrated with my own condition, rather than focusing on round-about ways to solve a problem.

Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and had a Catholic education from K-12. Structure was probably what I needed coming from a single parent house hold in a pretty tough city. However, whenever I found myself placed in the competitions that were approved for the masses I was disinterested and usually got showed up unless I was able to formulate some unorthodox or alternative approach.

Consistently finding success has meant needing to find an alternate route. I’m okay with that and don’t suffer much anxiety from that anymore, but it’s been a process to get to this point. I separated my shoulder in football and the only remedy after years of constant popping and pain were funky handstand pushups (you shoulda seem me fall on my face the first few times I tried). Inflammation and pain in my left knee from jogging and Muay Thai left me feeling like I couldn’t ever be really active again. Then I tried the Couch 2 5K running program and all of a sudden I’m doing 3 mile jogs and long hikes with no pain.

Another example of this dynamic: I chose to go into a highly competitive, unstable and perplexing profession. I’m a communicator! I had a pretty stable desk job back in Boston that I was bored to tears in, but it was lining me up for a traditional lifestyle of which seemed to be offering up opportunities to purchase a new car, build my savings and even buy my first condo. But the boredom was killing me and no matter how I twisted that Rubix Cube, I couldn’t make sense of that existence. So I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to work for a small startup called Brazen Careerist. That didn’t quite work out either. So I was left with the prospect of collecting unemployment indefinitely in a place I wasn’t really happy in until I found some sort of a job. Instead, I applied to teach English in South Korea, traveled and met  the most amazing woman ever in Colorado (where I would eventually move). Now I’m living as a consultant, making connections with amazing companies involved with sustainability and community development that I want to work with and I’m still hopping forward with confidence.

I chose to move forward in a direction that interested me. I didn’t want to keep collecting unemployment. I didn’t want to move home (that’s for damn sure) and I knew that whatever was next was going to be a series of uncharted steps that essentially would be up to me to make successful. I had a lot of help along the way, but choosing to step in this direction was something only I could do.

I’ve engaged in strenuous life choices continuously because I feel that life consisting mainly of leisure is probably both impossible and unappealing to me. Whether it’s been in my profession, my personal life or my relationships, I try to keep trying new and exciting things, testing out what I may be sensitive to and cultivating what works for me. It may never seem applicable to most other people, but I never expected other people’s general lives and choices to fit nicely into my own, so that’s just fine with me.

So, I move to Boulder and my girlfriend (and everyone else in this town it seems) loves to hike. Yeah, thin air, low oxygen and heights. I remember the last time I got to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain and I almost passed out from driving up along the cliffs and then having to look off the ledges. But, I found a few trails and kept trying to hike whenever possible. It was a great alternative to running when I wanted something different. At first, I’d gingerly climb and descend these mountains (or hills) hoping that my knees wouldn’t hurt and that my ankles wouldn’t roll. I just wanted to enjoy the same things that everyone else enjoyed without saying “I can’t do this” because of physical limitations. But, I got stronger, I gained confidence and now I don’t have to two step around every rock that appears in my path. My lungs feel great, I’m in shape and my legs have never felt better. Hiking and everyone and everything that got me up and down these mountains, where have you been all my life?

I’m not out acquiring things in life, I’m just trying to accumulate meaningful experiences and points of relation to myself and others. My path may not be the same as most others, but if I can gain perspective and hopefully meet another kind soul or two along the way, then that’s where I see steady footing and the antidote to fear and pain.