The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

September 19, 2010

Beware the Man Behind the Curtain

Filed under: Human Behavior,Social Experience Design,Social Media — Jeff @ 7:59 am

When I was a kid, I loved watching the Wizard of Oz, and not just because it had little people and flying monkeys; both very cool in my books. It was also the mystery of “The Great and Powerful Oz”. Quite frankly he scared me. He knew far more than me, Dorothy or her 3 odd companions and made sure we knew it. And who wouldn’t listen to a giant floating green head?

But when the curtain came back, my perception of him changed, even as a kid. I felt let down; tricked even. I now find eerie parallels to that experience in Social Media Marketing…

The New Yellow Brick Road

Incompetence is hard to spot in fast moving niche industries like social media marketing. In fact, for those masquerading as experts, its a perfect storm. Now Social Media is the new Yellow Brick Road and its gridlock folks.

A recent experience with a social media expert really sealed it for me. He had the demeanor of an expert (very confident), knew the lingo, and could talk a good game on the key social media hot topics. On the surface he looked and sounded really quite impressive; much more than my humble resume… But as I dug in with some questions (out of genuine interest sake – no malicious intent!), the facade began to crack.

What is most frightening to me is that these people are getting tons of work with big companies. It’s a classic supply and demand issue…

  • Huge demand for social media expertise and resources
  • The best people are crammed with business (or really don’t want to do it)
  • Evolution is fast paced
  • Its easy to sound like an expert

Disclaimer! While I don’t want to add “fuel to the fire” for those that thrive on negative perspectives regarding social media, I do feel compelled to help those struggling to find the right person/agency for the right job.

How to Spot Them

The risk of hiring a fake expert far outweighs the risk of the extra time to find and test the right person or firm. So here are some quick ways to spot and test them before you hire them.

  1. What is their background? Dig into it. Use Linked In to check their employment history. Social media requires a fundamental understanding of marketing and how to communicate with customers.
  2. What does their blog tell you? Are they regurgitating SM 101 or is their original insight there? Their writing is an indication of their thinking; if its amateur or borrowed, you have a problem.
  3. What are they pitching? If they walk in pitching Facebook and Twitter show em the door. Period. Customers dictate suitable channels, not the opposite. Anyone who thinks that social media is a “cure all” is clueless or selling.
  4. What is their real reputation? Unfortunately reputations can be manufactured these days as can results. Always ask and check real client references. Look at who they are associated with and Google them fiercely to find any questionable parts to their story.
  5. Do they ask good questions? A quality adviser asks questions, listens and then asks more questions. They ask the right questions about you, your customers and your business. The first question they should ask is “Why do you believe you (or your customers) need Social Media?”

How to test and get rid of a charlatan

So you have hired a Social Media Guru, but there is something still nagging at you deep inside your belly; something that just doesn’t smell right. Here are some ways to test your gut instinct and minimize your risk.

  1. First consultation – Play the lame duck: Let them take the lead. The best way to sink someone who doesn’t know much is to give them the room to prove it. Ask them questions and see where it goes. If all they do is talk, then you have your first sign.
  2. Sub-$10K trial: Figure out what you can do for under $10K and test their capabilities. If they focus on setting up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and using “secret proprietary tools” to get you followers, they are flying monkeys.
  3. Hold them accountable: Get them to agree to outcomes from their work that isn’t based on number of followers; that’s way too easy to fudge, especially on Twitter. Be tough on them; the good ones will appreciate this and the pretenders will wilt.
  4. Keep everything project or short term: Don’t tie your self to anyone early unless they obviously are actually experts. Keep non-committal until that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is gone. This allows you to move them to the exit quick if they show their true colors.

Know thyself – Teach thyself – Become the Real Wizard!

This is about roles and training your own staff to do most of this work. I have a different opinion on SM roles past one omnipotent expert. To be frank, I can barley set-up a Twitter account past the basics, but I can design a targeted strategy and social experience for enterprise companies. What does that make me then?

Here are some ways to understand different people you will run into and roles they fit.

  • Social Media (technical) Expert: This is what you will run into most often… someone who has a good grasp on all of the technology to do Social Media and how to “steal” followers. Its a necessary role, but any college kid can do it.
  • Strategist: While Social Media as a channel requires a unique perspective, many of the rules of marketing still apply. Your strategist needs to be able to work from or perform research, analyze it and form it into a practical, integrated, and scalable strategy for your business.
  • Farmers: Commonly known as community managers, these folks are service all the way; highly friendly and easy to speak with. They don’t have to have all the answers, but need to be able to connect customers quickly and easily to those that do and above all, make them feel good.
  • Hunters: This role is quite specialized and is your connector; an influencer or super influencer that promotes your brand and helps identify new key people to connect with. This person needs knowledge of your business and customers to connect properly. Many fake gurus will tell you they can hunt, but stealing followers with an app is not hunting.
  • Experience Designers: If you can afford it, a social experience designer can craft a unique, positive customer experience in social channels and tie that seamlessly into other channels. For enterprise companies, agencies often attempt this because of their understanding of the brand.


Training yourself and your team

This is a no-brainer to me and has absolutely no downside for you. Whether you know it or not, you are far more capable of planning and executing basic Social Media than you think. You know your customers and your business better than any outsider; you know what works and what doesn’t. So invest the time to educate yourself and your team.

There are a ton of great free resources out there to learn from like: and to name a few. Further, get on twitter personally and start joining marketing chats. You would be surprised how much you can learn in a short time.

Every Time Someone Says “Social Media Expert”, Guy Kawasaki gets a $1

Okay, I should stop picking on Guy… but he put himself out there so I’ll use it one more time. And I am not saying he is a fake, but when you tell people they “Don’t need a strategy, just go do it” and “there are no influencers; nobodies are the new somebodies” I get to pick on him a little bit. And I’m done.

So what is the one behavioral characteristic you can use to spot a fake?

Insistence. People who don’t know much have a very small comfort zone and will be highly confident inside it until they are pushed to the outside. At that point, they will push back or become insistent on a specific solution, i.e. “You need to be on Facebook and Twitter!”

They will be one trick ponies for sure.

Don’t be Enchanted

B2B Social Media is common sense applied to human to human relationships in business. Nothing more. The best thing you can start with is asking good questions- of your customers, your team and your external advisers. Educating yourself on the basics really doesn’t take that much time or effort and will benefit you in so many ways in the short and long term.

Take the time and immunize yourself.

Thanks for reading and as always I enjoy the debate so feel free to push back or comment.


Jeff – Sensei

June 6, 2010

Redeeming KitKat the Old Fashioned Way – Give Away Money!

So it seems Nestle didn’t waste much time in attempting to rebuild some positive share of mind with their KitKat brand after a very public debacle involving Green Peace, orangutans, Face Book and a very silly Nestle rep. The drama even included a neat play on the KitKat logo you can see in a previous post of mine, but turned out to be the spark that lit the social media bonfire.

So what did they come up with to redeem KitKat? Why no less than “Instantly winning $1 million dollars cash!” – and aptly named “Kit Kash”. The program to reclaim some positive ground seems to be only in Canada from what i could find, but comes complete with contest website and TV commercials in Prime Time.

Meanwhile, the UK site and international home of Nestle’s KitKat, has the “Win Your Perfect Break” and “Cross Your Fingers” contests for far less cash than the Canadian counterpart. I checked out their FaceBook group page (still referred to on the website as “Become our fan) and what a difference a little contest makes from the hate fest they experienced just several months ago. It is literally all bubbles, rainbows and chipmunks as hundreds of Facebookians (new word I’m TMing so hands off!) extol the virtues of free Kit Kats and cash.

FaceBook “Likes” it or do they in Canada?

So was it that easy? I mean, for the love of Pete, is that all it takes to get back into the swing of things? Give away cash and chocolate? Seems that way and what a testament to the human condition. According to their FB numbers, 144K people like this group. Don’t know what this reflects as far as number of people in the group or Like icons peppered about the internet bu it seems to be working in their favour. Well done people; way to hold your ground on the issues.

But what better Red Herring is there than chocolate and money? I mean honestly. Me personally I’d like to see Orangutan shaped KitKats or at the very least Orange KitKats to pay homage to red haired tree brothers!

But looking at the Canadian website, it seems they are a little gun shy about linking into social media. The only way to share is the tired old form to tell a friend and this puzzles me, particularly when you are giving away mad cheddar like a million bucks. What a missed opportunity to get back on the horse and prime the social engine in Canada. I get that they want to capture customer data through the website, but the bigger opportunity is to build a grass fire through 4Square, Twitter, and FaceBook giving them access to millions of consumers.

Just think about the potential of mobile engagement allowing GenY to enter their codes via mobile for instant win chances right at the store. Why it’s almost a form of really tasty gambling at the point of sale appealing to instant gratification, greed and chocoholics. Just think how many extra KitKats they could sell based on impulse? Maybe a partnership with OLG? That might be going too far now…

Anyway, shame on all of you for falling for this.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the corner store for a much deserved break and the chance to win a million bucks!

May 24, 2010

Tearing Down the Brand Walls with Social Media

I recently wrote an article over at, The Relationship (r)Evolution – How Social Media is Driving Change in the Human Condition which captured the essence of some of my earlier human behavior articles. But while I was writing that piece I came up with, what I believe, is an interesting metaphor for how social media is working with big brands from the customer’s perspective. It is based on the image burned in every GenX soul when the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989. An epic and evolutionary moment in human civilization and culture to be sure.

So what got me thinking was how big brands seem to have built similar “Berlin walls” up around themselves. This is what decades of one way communication and totalitarian control of the brand have accomplished. But how long did we think customers would tolerate this kind of relationship? I mean really, if we think about, we have been in it for ourselves since the beginning.

Watching the walls come down with each swing of the Social Media hammer

So is Social Media the proverbial sledge hammer in the hands of the customer? It just might be. It is certainly allowing them to come together and affect change on the biggest companies in the world; sometimes that change is forced. I mean just look at how Nestle turned it around after getting pummeled on FaceBook.

Think about it. One of the core attractions of Social Media for an individual is the ability to find people who share the same interest, both friends and strangers. Many times, those interests revolve around experiences and many times those experiences are based on relationships with brands – good, bad and indifferent. Social Media unites people and enables them to focus their collective voice to affect change. That is true power for the consumer.

So, with every 140 character comment on your brand, their is a swing of the hammer against your brand wall because even positive comments are going to affect change. Just look at how Starbucks is using the power of their social presence and customer voice to improve their brand, their products and their services.

Change your brand wall into a brand road

So can we actually leverage this to our advantage as companies? Absolutely. But it is going to take a shift in thinking,  in strategy and in our approach to our customers. I think a better metaphor for how forward thinking, customer-centric companies can leverage social media is a brand road. A road implies many things; progress, two-ways, going the distance, and most importantly no barriers.

Every time a brick is removed from your brand wall use it to build a road with your customers and remember the lessons learned from November 9, 1989.

Let me know what you think of this post and feel free to disagree or take the idea and run with it in your own way.


Jeff – Sensei

April 18, 2010

The Struggle for Existence in Social Media Environments

The more I read Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the more I am amazed at how his work opens the mind to so many different perspectives on human nature, human society, human evolution and the environments we use to develop relationships. This is a man who had and still has a singularly unique perspective on the design of nature.

One of the more fascinating pieces of his work was how he viewed what he deems the struggle for existence, including “the dependence of one being on another, and including not only the life of the individual, but the success in leaving progeny”.

But how is this even remotely related to Social Media or farther still Large Enterprise in Social Media?

Well, try this out and see if you agree…

First, think of Social Media Environments like a living, breathing, ever changing ecosystem where millions of beings (of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions) co-exist and contribute to the ecosystem by consuming and creating food. Add to this another layer I’ll refer to as the food layer which is made of of ideas and conversations.

Second, let’s say that all beings within social media environments are dependent on one another; why else would we need followers? And that their progeny is their ideas and/or their brand; thus the need to attract followers who take on your idea and brand – metaphorically they become your offspring.

Here is where I’m going to throw a bit more Darwin at you.

“We behold the face of nature (read Social Media) bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food (read ideas and opportunities); we do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds and are constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not always bear in mind, that though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year.”        – Charles Darwin

If we step out of our deeply rooted perspective of ourselves, our business, and our customers we can begin to see how his observations, even natural laws, begin to become relevant to a virtual ecosystem like Twitter or FaceBook.

To illustrate this, let’s look at a couple ways the struggle for existence manifests itself within social media environments.

The struggle of ideas.

Do ideas destroy other ideas? Most certainly.  An idea flourishes depending on its strength, relevancy, value and on the beings that promote them. The stronger or more plentiful the beings, the greater chance for the idea to flourish and to create difficulty for competing ideas to flourish. So how many ideas can an ecosystem maintain? Hard to say, but certainly as one idea becomes dominant, another struggles for existence.

The struggle of companies and brands.

Do companies actually compete against other companies within social media environments or do they struggle to exist against the environment? Much like plants at the edge of a desert struggle for moisture; never competing against other plants, insects or animals, but simply for existence. I would imagine much of this is because brands (and the businesses behind them) are so new to the concept of such an environment. From Darwin’s perspective, they may just be the weakest beings within social media environments – possessing few traits that actually contribute to social survival, let alone social dominance.

The struggle of beings.

While all beings within social ecosystems are dependent on others, the struggle between them is relentless. Gurus, both real and fake, compete by churning out ideas, conversations and opinions that vie for relevancy with followers. Followers compete for attention from those they follow and for relevancy and standing within their social circles. Progeny are created and destroyed as they take up ideas or replace them with new, better ones that are more attractive to them personally or attractive to their social circle, thus improving their own standing and dominance.

The struggle of virtual ecosystems.

Looking at social ecosystems from the 30,000 foot level, we can see how even ecosystems struggle for existence. An ecosystem’s survival depends on creating an attractive environment for beings to flourish, with the ability to produce plentiful, high quality food.  The more that ecosystem can evolve its attractive qualities, the more likely the chance it will flourish and dominate other virtual ecosystems. We see this in the struggle between the great social platforms of You Tube, Buzz, Twitter, FaceBook, and FourSquare even as we see the decay of MySpace.They can’t all dominate and the weaker ones will surely decay and cease to exist.

Does the struggle ever get easier?

Most certainly it does and in the same breath most certainly it does not. As both beings and brands evolve stronger, more socially dominant traits, they will have an easier time attracting followers and keeping them within these social media environments. Several things are clear though, the struggle for existence ensures balance by creating strong, adaptable beings (people, brands, and platforms) and winnows out the weaker versions of the same.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m a lunatic? Let me know! I love the comments and debate.


Jeff – Sensei

April 14, 2010

Demand Generation and Social Media for B2B Enterprise

I had an interesting conversation with one of my clients last night and it is one, not just myself, but every consultant and marketing executive has been thinking about since Social Media has become the craze. How do we get the leads?

And by leads, we are talking qualified expressions of interest in doing business with you leads.

What is the Role of Social Media in a Demand Generation Program?

The first part of the challenge is that we are looking at Social Media to deliver leads, and while this can happen, it is more likely that social media is an integrated part of an ongoing demand generation program working at the beginning of the cycle and supporting throughout.

The pivotal role of Social Media for Demand Generation is to attract and engage influencers, not decision-makers. To do this, you need to:

  • Research your target markets and understand their current needs and issues
  • Create an editorial schedule that accomplishes two things:
    • Discusses the issues/needs
    • Discusses the solutions to those issues and needs
  • Do it without shamelessly promoting yourself. It’s not about you.
  • The rest of the best practices around Social Media engagement apply


How do we Integrate Social Media into Demand Generation?

Integration requires an understanding of the Demand Generation process and the decision-making process of the influencer community you are targeting. Some critical things to remember:

  1. Align the Demand Generation process with the decision-making process
  2. Ensure your content is available in many forms (pod casts, pdfs, videos, webinars, presentations, etc.) to appeal to many personal preferences for acquiring knowledge
  3. Create a “Swiss cheese” type model of engagement allowing them to pop in and out of the process or different media options anytime, anywhere while staying within an overall demand generation framework.
  4. This is a marathon not a sprint. Think long term, but plan by quarter. A huge mistake is to think that these people are ready to buy based on your quarterly financial schedule. The Social Media component allows continual engagement so that when they are ready (6, 9, or 18 months down the road) you are still engaged and top of mind.

The Social Media Take-away for Influencers

The net result of the social media component within demand generation should be to build rapport, confidence and comfort in your audience. Comfort that allows them to begin to take further steps within the Demand Generation process. This will often lead them to commitment for additional steps such as attending events or webinars, signing up for newsletters, or booking  1on1 calls or meetings with your experts or Account Executives.

Emotional Stages of Commitment

Finally, your Demand Generation program should be walking them through 4 key areas of emotional commitment, each stage built by a combination of marketing tactics and personal interactions with your people.

  • Rapport – Your ability to quickly engage in a meaningful way that meets their immediate needs
  • Confidence – Increasing credibility through timely, relevant, valuable content and dialogue. Prove you know what you are talking about.
  • Comfort – Increasing seriousness in commitment to not just the process, but the relationship
  • Trust – You become a confidante and information, insights, and perspective become freely shared

Done right, Social Media becomes a lynch pin in not just ongoing intellectual engagement but also to gauge audience receptivity to your brand and their emotional attachment to your people.

This is where the rubber meets the road on developing long term, meaningful relationships that turn into customers.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m a lunatic?

Let me know. I love the discussions and look forward to the journey of discovery with you!


Jeff – Sensei

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