The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

April 5, 2010

Nice Guys Finish First – Natural Selection in Social Media

Oh the irony.

For centuries, the bad business guy has perceivably won every encounter. He has manipulated and lied and under delivered and gotten away with it every time because we were all kept in the dark. With marketing on their side, we were lured into the spider’s web only to be caught in contracts, given poor service and saddled with products that didnt meet expectations. This was the natural way of things. We were prey, they were predators.

The good guy suffered, sometimes achieved great things, sometimes not. He suffered, not by his own hand, but because we had no trust anymore – a shared fate resulting from the bad guy’s destruction of consumer faith. And really, don’t all companies look and sound the same? Not anymore. Social Media has finally given the nice guys a way to prove themselves; a way to show through listening and action that they are indeed different and worthy like my beloved Starbucks.

I look at it as karmic revenge. Social Media has given nice guys the ultimate tool to win the hearts and minds of customers. It is an evolutionary cycle in the making between companies that only take and companies that give and take equally.

How would Darwin have seen it?

I think that the best example I could find was how Darwin looked at the selection of favourable traits over injurious traits. In new environments such as Social Media, old corporate traits like greed and not listening would be considered injurious; a factor that leads invariably to extinction. Whereas a trait such as listening and reacting (in a reasonable amount of time) is a favourable trait in Social Media; a factor that contributes to dominance in nature and the expansion of the species, or the brand as the case may be.

Is it possible to evolve or take on these favourable traits? Of course, but not many companies today can do it easily, if at all. To those nice guy companies though, Social Media has ushered in the dawning of a new era in business – an era where nice guys finish first.

How big does the apple have to be?

Now all we have to do as customers is wake up and get over our own self-limiting behaviour of being in abusive relationships to realize that there are nice guys out there who want to earn our business and not take advantage of us at every step. A company that will love us and hold us figuratively close.

What is the business equivalent of spooning anyway?


Jeff – Sensei

March 20, 2010

Risk Mitigation for Large Enterprise in Social Media Environments

Filed under: General,Human Behavior,Social Media — Jeff @ 12:58 pm

By now, everyone is talking about how Nestle screwed up on Facebook. I am not going to bore you with the same tripe that everyone else is spewing out about the situation. Yes they screwed up, now move on about it. Instead in true Mountain Top fashion, I am going to look at it from two different perspectives; one Pro Nestle (tied back to Risk Mitigation) and one Pro Consumer (tied back to understanding online human behaviour).

This post will deal with the Pro Nestle perspective and tie it directly to Risk Mitigation within Social Media environments.

The Risk for Large Enterprise in Social Media Environments

As I watched the Nestle situation unfold, I immediately thought about risk to their brand and the impact that a lack of risk management was having on them. The kerfuffle started over Green Peace UK attacking Nestle online for buying Palm Oil from a company that was destroying orangutan habitat in Indonesia. The catalyst or spark that ignited the wild fire was the use of the KitKat logo (to the right). A clever and effective tool to get a rise out of Nestle and it worked. Very well.

Understanding that situation requires us to look at how risk is different in Social Media environments which requires a different kind of risk planning.

  • Large Enterprise is exceptionally vulnerable in public Social Media environments but they typically think the opposite. You are a target now susceptible to attacks from every individual and organization that doesn’t like you. The difference here is every action around a volatile situation is on display for the world to see, and they are watching. How Large Enterprise perceives itself is critical to reducing vulnerability.
  • Exposure = Risk. Depending on where you go, your level of exposure to risk changes, thus the level of risk changes. Open public forums like FaceBook have the most exposure thus have the highest risk. Twitter has less exposure, You Tube less than that, and blogs least of all. Managing exposure is another key ingredient to understanding and managing risk.
  • Predators are everywhere. As a large enterprise you have enemies of all shapes and sizes. They are all online. This is unique to online environments like Social Media where two way conversations are expected. Your natural enemies know this and will take advantage of it every chance they can get. Know who your enemies are and understand what they are capable of.
  • It only takes a spark to start a wildfire. Within 10 hours, the situation with Nestle spiraled out of control, hit the news media, was picked up by blogs and their fan membership on Facebook raced to 91K all for the wrongs reasons. One spark, the way the Nestle rep handled the public on FaceBook, ignited a wildfire they could no longer control. In Social Media environments, risk to your brand is immediate and far reaching.


What is Risk Mitigation for Social Media Environments

Ideally, it is an integral part of a well thought out strategy and approach to going social with your customers and the public.  The risk planning portion should have the following components.

  1. Understanding of who you are in the big picture. Without question, Large Enterprise believe they are the big fish in the pond wherever they go and whatever they do. Not in Social Media. Understanding is the self-analysis leadership needs to do to recognize who they are and their place in Social Media environments. You are prey, not predators. This mean designing a completely different approach and experience than you are used to delivering.
  2. Risk Planning Scenarios. Once you have identified all of your potential vulnerabilities and predators. You need to scenario plan around them. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or complex because the implementation of risk planning relies on the capabilities of your front line people. Develop general cases for evaluating and managing risk that can be applied to multiple types of situations.
  3. Design a Vigilance Process. This is all about teaching your people to recognize the early warning signs of risk and giving them guidelines to manage it and public engagement rules for dealing with it immediately. This gives you time to properly apply resources and escalate your response to control the situation. Don’t go nuts, simple elegant, powerful processes are always the best for everyone involved.
  4. Get the Right People. Having the right people in Social Media is critical to your success. Their aptitude should be open, approachable, friendly, understanding and patient. In hostile situations, it should add helpful. Being armed with questions or techniques to disarm predators or delay the risk in a situation is key. No knee jerk reactions, no retaliation, no low blows. Lastly, asking good, probing questions to define the situation and understand their point of view becomes an important factor in risk management and escalation.

The Value of Risk Mitigation for Large Enterprise Social Media

Before we talk about the value, let’s look at the cost of not having a risk mitigation plan in place. Nestle was hit hard not just from a “Brand perception” point of view but also in the stock market. That’s real. That’s bottom line impact and measurable. If anything, my hope is that this hard fought experience for Nestle will help them realize how potent Social Media can be.

The value if Risk Mitigation can deliver the opposite effect. If it can impact stock prices negatively, it can impact them positively. Imagine if they had rolled out a well managed plan that turned that situation positive and made Green Peace look impotent? Could that have driven investor confidence? Sure it can.

More importantly, the sustainable impact to brand perception can only be improved by applying a risk mitigated approach to dealing with the public. The unique factor is that you have to do this within a two way forum on the open world stage. You have the chance to convert customers into evangelists and enemies into friends, or at the very least make enemies impotent. A win either way.

In the end, risk mitigation makes you a tough target. No predator, human or animal, likes tough targets so the natural inclination will be to move on. Predators look for weakness and when they find it, the exploit it ferociously. Adopt risk mitigation in your approach and make yourself a tough target. There is no downside.

March 15, 2010

Focus on the Social Approach, Not the Social Medium

One of the things I have been preaching about for the past while is not to focus on the medium, but on the approach in Social Media Environments. I have taken to calling this the Social Experience.

What is Social Experience Design?

Much the same as Customer Experience Design, it is the design of an experience that is specific to being social with your customers in online environments. While it is similar to customer experience which covers much of the enterprise (from marketing to sale to customer service) it is also very unique.

Why? Because Online Social Environments are so unique and very unlike what the majority of companies have experienced before.

How is Social Experience Unique?

Here’s a short list I’ve been working on:

  • It is a 2way conversation – Since when did we want our customers to do anything but listen to us???
  • It is personal ranging from 1-1 conversations to 1-many/many-1
  • It is shared control with your customer or prospect and this makes every Enterprise with control issues very, very uncomfortable.
  • It is about them, not about you. This is the killer, especially in B2B, where we are so used to talking about ourselves and nothing else.


The Value of Social Experience Design in the Enterprise.

So if you are able to craft an approach that delivers a positive social experience, you should be able to apply this to ANY social media environment from the big public wastelands like Twitter and Facebook to private customer environments and everything in between.

If your approach is wrong and the experience is indifferent or negative, it won’t matter where you go, you will fail.

The Medium is Going to Evolve

Betting on the medium right now carries a lot of risk for many reasons. Think back to other media that have died, but seemed great at the time such as VHS, CD/DVD, and desktop computers just to name a few.

To put it in the perspective of online media declines, I’ve captured some specifics below:

  • Some Social Media channels are already showing signs of decline such as My Space. When the celebrities and self proclaimed gurus leave Twitter for the next big thing, Twitter will decline rapidly too.
  • Mobile culture is going to be one of the biggest driving forces for change in the next few years, especially in B2B. According to IDC, the shift to mobile is immense and in the immediate with nearly 1 billion mobile workers accessing enterprise systems this year.
  • For B2B and B2C alike, innovations like augmented reality are going to begin to draw more people to the mobile realm. So how long do laptops and traditional websites really have?


One thing is clear, the media we use to communicate with our customers (and they to us!) is going to continue to evolve rapidly with our without us. By focusing on the social experience, we create a much more adaptable approach to evolutionary changes in the social medium.

The Tail End of the Horse

I have always believed that marketers latch onto new media channels like Social Media way too late. By the time most companies get caught up to speed on Social Media it will have changed yet again, and guess what, email or something else we GenXers hold dear may have gone the way of the Dodo too.

What we need to do is get in front of the horse and try to see where its going instead of walking behind it and getting shit on our shoes.

Disagree? Agree? Just want to argue the points? Let me know!


Jeff – Sensei

March 13, 2010

Is Your Brand Naturally Predisposed for Success in Social Media?

I was in Starbucks this morning (Venti Americano – just milk) and it struck me. As I looked at the environment inside I couldn’t help but see the digital version of this cafe within a twitter or Facebook like setting.

What struck me is how the staff really make the difference here. The staff at this particular location are highly interactive with the customers and this creates a far friendlier atmosphere. The customers got to know each other and the tables come together easily resulting in broad and wonderful discussions with people of all sorts. Their attitude is infectious and it is the same in their Social Media presence.

What Makes Starbucks Naturally Successful?

In my mind, Starbucks has the winning formula for success in Social Media, but they had it before Social Media became hot. They have a social brand. And it isn’t just the cafe setting and the friendly staff. Here are some other social traits they have going for them.

  • Alignment and tremendous real involvement with the Green Movement
  • A social approach to customer service enabling them to connect with almost any customer in an emotional way
  • Affordable quality in all of their products making them huge with GenXers in particular
  • An internal culture that is naturally social and this comes out in how well they are able to connect with the community they are in the customers they serve.


So I started following Starbucks on Twitter and it is absolutely fascinating. They have taken what they do so well in their cafe and have very successfully reproduced it on Twitter. Here you have a number of staff tasked with making every single person that comes into the Twitter channel feel good.

So now, I’m going to start looking at other brands that I believe are Naturally Social and see how they are doing in Social Media environments. Is there a set of best practices for example that can be learned from these great companies?

If you know of any that are exemplary of Naturally Social Brands, then please let me know.


Jeff – Sensei

March 12, 2010

Social Territory – Natural Human Patterns in Social Media

So I have been thinking…

What if we could look at where people go online and how they interact in those places like we understand ranges or territories for mammals? For example, my online range includes:

  • My cave (my blog) where I am safe and feel the most comfortable
  • Places where I hunt for “food” to nourish both personal and business needs. This includes Twitter and Linked In
  • Places where I can be with others of my species; their blogs, focused communities, etc.
  • New areas where I can expand my ability to increase any of the above and does not have too many competitors

This range tends to define who I am online as part of my overall brand.

But it is more than that I think.

For others, their ranges could include places to find mates (various dating sites), better food sources (leads and prospecting) and places to improve their natural capabilities (be that cooking, parenting,  education, shopping, etc).

So How Does This Apply to Business?

Well, maybe looking at customers and understanding their range gives us new insight or better understanding of them – a broad, shallow view rather than narrow and deep. Certainly as Large Enterprises look to understand a customer or prospect they tend to take a very narrow and deep view of that person; focusing only on what is directly relevant to what we want them to buy.

Consider for a minute looking at designing a customer experience – it really is about how that person experiences your brand in the broadest sense of the word – every touch point both direct and indirect. Maybe a territorial perspective gives the possibility of new insight into how they experience your brand? Especially in nebulous environments like Social Media.

I will be exploring this theory more as part of my research and writing for my Book – On Social Media: How Big Business Can Leverage Natural Selection in Social Media to Become a Dominant Species.

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