The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

December 31, 2010

Embracing Social Change in 2011

It seems predictive posts are all the rage right now so in my own mad style, I’ve taken a look at the tea leaves in order to share some “Sensei-riffic” (trademarking in the works) predictions for marketing, social, and the relationship between customers and brands. So rather than give you the usual obvious predictions, I am going to take a step towards the ledge and peer into the darkness. The signs I see  herald tremendous change that is just off the radar.

So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your liberal marketing senses offended while enjoying or becoming outraged at this rum-nog fueled post! Cheers!

Prediction 1: Social CRM will be a huge failure.

Why? Because you cannot quantify an emotional human relationship no matter how hard you try. The quest to do so has begun anew with sCRM. To be clear its predecessor CRM is about numbers, not people. What other system does that to people? Right! The prison system!

The same people who created CRM are now pushing sCRM. Same shit, different steaming pile. CRM completely dehumanized the customer by reducing the relationship to math. Next it is horribly lop-sided designed to deliver insight into how to get more money from a customer, not how to build a better, mutually beneficial relationship. Does it actually benefit the customer in any way?

Maybe we should call it CWM (Customer Wallet Management), how about CMM (Customer    Money Management) or even CDM (Customer Decision Management) because it has nothing to do with actual customer benefit. Call me jaded but every company that has a CRM profile on me uses it to try and get more money from me with no clue on how to actually gain my trust.

Is sCRM the second coming? Not in my books. All we have done is given marketers yet another source to gather data to try and soak more money from our customers without working on the actual customer relationship. Still waiting for a company to actually put the R in CRM or sCRM for that matter.

My prediction, it won’t amount to much and most of the companies offering an sCRM solution will be snapped by bigger CRM players as “just another feature” while the ones that stay on their own will go stale. Its a great idea with the same poor execution that CRM enjoys.

Prediction 2: Customer Loyalty, not Customer Acquisition will Become the Big Social Play for Smart Companies.

The greatest mystery to me is why almost every company (B2b and B2C inclusively) focus social marketing on new customer acquisition. Is it that old human failing that we ignore the ones who love us? That we barely appreciate those in our lives every day? Maybe its casual indifference or perhaps something far more mercenary… Whatever it is, we have been ignoring those most important to us. Maybe we are just too dense to realize we are risking our current relationships for the potential of a couple new ones? Like the man who wakes up one morning to find his wife has left him after years of passive neglect.

I live by some simple rules and one of them is “you dance with the ones that brung ya”.  It may be my bumpkin simplicity talking, but the first people we should be investing in are our employees and customers – these are the ones that “brung us to the dance”. So what happens when you ignore the ones that love you and step out to find others? You make an ass of yourself in the international media, lose your endorsements, your fortune and your game.

Looking at how social networks actually work, I am shocked how many companies remain clueless to the value of social solutions for their customers and employees.

Here is the relationship chain I have identified…

  1. Happy employees deliver better customer/social experiences.
  2. These better experiences create happier customers, in turn appreciating employees more.
  3. Happy customers spend more, are more loyal and will defend your brand.
  4. Happy customers are in the public social networks where positive brand experiences spread very quickly.
  5. Happy customers and happy employees are the best brand ambassadors and will actively engage in thousands of conversations in blogs, FaceBook, Twitter and other “traditional” social platforms like kitchen tables, events and cafes.
  6. The actions of your brand ambassadors attract new customers!! Because everyone who hears the stories wants to be with a company that appreciates them! Go figure.

So why oh why are we focusing on acquisition? As for the execution of a social solution for customers and employees all I can say is make them feel two things: appreciated and exclusive. This is the gas in the social engine.

Do yourself a favor at your next marketing strategy meeting and ask “Are we ignoring the ones who brung us to the dance?” and see where it goes.

My prediction is the next big social play will be private communities for employees and customers; perhaps even allowing them to (god forbid) intermingle. These communities must focus on delivering a positive customer and employee experience to thrive. Don’t be a Tiger.

Prediction 3: The Rise of Social Risk Manager and Social Experience Designer as Specialized Marketing Roles

So now that we have literally millions of so called “Social Media Experts” to set-up our Twitter accounts and FaceBook pages, we need to look at more specialized positions past the technology. My prediction is that two roles will emerge for mid and large size enterprise: A Social Risk Manager and a Social Experience Designer. Let’s throw some lose definitions behind these two roles.

Social Risk Manager: A strategic and tactical position serving to homogenize PR, legal, strategy, and operations into one accountable role. Custodian of the Social Policy and Social Risk Mitigation Strategy, adviser to PR and Social team on risk management techniques/training, and “eye in the sky” on emerging issues/trends that affect the business and the industry. Throw in a healthy does of analysis to continually adapt the strategy too.

Social Experience Designer: Again a strategic and tactical role integrating the brand/communications strategy to ensure a consistently positive customer experience in the social channels. Social has been largely “by the seat of your pants” execution with little strategy or rationale, so this role is meant to make Social make sense to the customer. The social experience is designed to utilize the unique factors of the social channels to build the positive perception of the brand in the same way you would design a retail interior or website.

Prediction 4: The Employee Revolution

One of my first posts ever was about the Relationship Revolution over at So we have seen a customer revolution via Social Media, now I predict a social uprising within the enterprise. Why? One simple powerful goal:  Improving the Employee Experience. A couple factors at play here…

  1. GenY employees are less loyal, so to retain them you need to understand and engage them in different ways.
  2. An employee experience, much like a customer experience, is based on how you engage with them and the experience you design that must be consistent across the company, but diverse enough to promote individuality – be that cultural, gender, social, tribal, regional, etc…
  3. Allow employees to socialize on topics other than the company! For the love of Pete, when will we learn that we are not the center of their universe? Let them engage on anything they want and let them know its okay to do so.
  4. Global competition means keeping talent. Being social with employees let’s you understand emerging needs and issues before they go too far. Plus Social Media has made it way too easy for your employees to get poached; Linked In is crawling with recruiters as is Twitter…

Prediction 5: The Awakening that Social Media is NOT a Big Deal, but Social Relationships ARE

No I am not trying to grab attention by being a contrarian, but I think many people just don’t understand the real drivers behind the rise of the big social media platforms; that being the rise of social relationships. The basis of every good, long lasting relationship for any human being is communication. Communication or our drive to communicate is like a river… its fluidity is its strength allowing it find the easiest course to continue its way to the ocean. In much the same way human communication is fluid finding the easiest route or channel to enable two or more people to socialize.

So now let me connect the dots on this prediction. Social Media is both the channel and the technology that enables it. The success of a particular social platform is based on its ability to enable its participants to communicate easily and quickly while delivering small, measurable improvements to enhance the experience. The companies that deliver this technology are madly looking for ways to monetize these channels driven by the fear that the competition will outmaneuver them. They are currently adding layers of complexity not just in the technology and interface, but to the communication process itself. They are also enabling “intrusive” communication from corporations looking to reach the participants.

As the channel becomes more complex and more difficult for simple, uninterrupted  social relationships to work, human communication will begin to look for a better channel. Let me be very clear here…

It is the company that invests in the social relationship, not the social media channel, that will achieve long term success. Its what i refer to as a socially dominant brand trait. More here on the struggle for existence and social traits.

Prediction 6: The Real Role for Social Media is Lead Nurturing

In the same way you can’t use one tool to build a house, you can’t use one channel to take a net new prospect and drive that relationship through to a sale; especially in B2B marketing.

Lead Nurturing is the art of the relationship and is a long play. Its the same space in time as that point between the first couple dates and moving in together. It takes investment, patience, understanding and time. Has there ever been a role more suited to Social Media?

My experience leads me to believe this is the advantage in turning quantity of leads into quantity and quality of leads. The big challenge? Marketing and sales must work together for it to work.

Of course, once this realization has sunk in, you can actually begin to target your social at specific audiences and behavioral types – greatly increasing the power of your social marketing to engage and accelerate sales efforts.

Do you have a lead nurturing strategy yet or is your social strategy doing everything for everyone?

Prediction 7: The Rise of Mobile Marketing

This is a big one and is by far the most exciting communication tsunami coming our way. I have always said that when we looked at social marketing, we were looking at the south end of the horse walking north by focusing on web-based social.

Think about it for a minute. All of the emerging nations (Brazil, China, India, Africa, etc) are bypassing laptops/pcs and going straight to mobile. The magnitude of these market behemoths and how global companies market to these unique populations will end some brand empires and give rise to new ones.

Take India as an example, it is it is projected that India will have 1.159 billion mobile subscribers by 2013 effectively passing China as the #1 mobile market in the world.

How does this impact our ability to compete in these markets? Check out this cool review of Indian and Chinese markets

If you haven’t started giving serious consideration to the importance of mobile marketing (whether you are B2B or B2C) what exactly are you waiting for?

First movers always, always, always get the market advantage.

Prediction 8: Social ROI Measurement is a Waste of Time

I have watched for about 2 years as marketers focus more and more on measuring customer relationships; social or otherwise. Then it came to me recently… ROI measurement is the equivalent of marketing masturbation – We do it to pleasure ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we should measure our success along the way, but I have seen this grow into a very unhealthy obsession for many marketers. Is it because we find solace in numbers? Or maybe we can manufacture success in the absence of real proof…

Every time I speak with senior execs it always boils down to one thing: Is what you are doing generating profitable revenue? Its another strong argument for marketing and sales alignment to measure the customer life-cycle from first contact to sale.

It seems to be an inferiority complex we can’t shake as marketers. We constantly try to prove to the rest of the enterprise that we do matter to more than just ourselves. The obsession has to stop. It takes valuable resources away from activities such as lead nurturing that drives profitable revenue and delivers constant touch with a potential customer.

My prediction is that most marketers will continue to go overboard on ROI measurement endlessly because its their comfort zone. We will continue to measure things that don’t matter and report on things that have no bearing to the bottom line.

The marketers that can align with sales and keep delivering simple, bottom line-focused analysis will win the day.

Prediction 9: The Beginning of the Great Social Mergers

You can almost feel it in the air. Some big mergers are coming. There are some real hungry large companies out there looking to get into the social scene in a big way. Meanwhile we have some high potential targets that are not big enough to survive on their own for an extended period, but not small enough to die out quickly.

The Hunters: Apple, MSN, Google and FaceBook.

The Prey: Four Square, MySpace, Twitter, Second Life and a dozen smaller social platforms.

The Dark Horses: Linked In and Skype and other indirect social platforms like Ebay/Kijiji and CraigsList.

Apple: Apple needs a viable social platform past its devices. I don’t know that Ping has any merit for them, but a social platform like MySpace makes a great fit to continue to dominate consumer demand for music. Four Square might be of interest as well as this geo-social application gives Apple reach into retailers and their quest for mobile marketing dominance on the iPhone and iPad. Of course this all depends on whether Jobs can get over himself…

FaceBook: Is Facebook reaching the point where an acquisition of a smaller, niche player makes sense? Maybe an acquisition to build out its business offering? This is where I see something like Second Life really giving huge depth to Facebook for both consumers and business. Skype would be a very cool addition to the consumer side giving the ability for real “face time” via video. Lastly, buying out Zynga might be an excellent strategic move as well, but the relationship is dodgey already. Social gaming is a huge part of FaceBook’s future to be sure.

MSN: MSN needs a better social footprint for sure. Bing is not a social platform and their deal with FaceBook is simply a strategic alliance. They need to get into the scene. For them Twitter, Linked In and Four Square make excellent targets and integrate well with their business and consumer offerings. With Windows on mobile devices now, perhaps a stronger relationship with FaceBook is in the works. Who knows.

Google: Google is a fascinating and dangerous company in my mind. They already own You Tube, Buzz is a failure, and its easier to acquire a smaller player than try to risk failure again with an in-house project. I really see Twitter being a nice fit with Google. Its adds great depth and power to Google’s already dominant search and would really put Bing on its heels. Any of the Dark Horses like Skype,  Ebay/Kijiji or CraigsList would also be a very interesting for Google to expand/consolidate its reach.

Prediction 10: No One, and I Mean No One, Understands What Influence is or How to Measure it.

If there is one thing Klout and Fast Company’s Influence Project showed us its that no company understands human influence at all. Let’s be honest with ourselves… number of Tweets/followers does not an influencer make. But this hasn’t stopped the bandwagoners from jumping on it early as a possible solution- how many bot owners do you think take advantage of Klout Klub in Vegas?

To me, Klout is an ingenious social game that uses heavy game mechanics to feed two human addictions: acquiring  prestige and competing vs. friends/peers. The result? A compulsive need to constantly check and improve your score by ramping up your Tweets to an obnoxious level fueled by a fear of being beaten by a friend or peer.

Can't stop Tweeting, Klout'll eat me.

For such a simple word, Influence is potentially one of the most complex human conditions that exists today.  I lamented this complexity recently…. To me, everybody has an “InQ” or Influence Quotient; that is the first layer of Influence complexity, but that is the simplest thing to understand and what Klout and Fast Company based their rudimentary assumptions on. But your InQ is affected by dozens of other layers and types of influence that nobody even talks about or gives any credit to; the most powerful of which is Situational Influence – a topic I intend to explore in an upcoming article.

Want to begin to measure influence? How about giving every person a trust rating that is voted on by their friends and peers? Make the trust button come with a string attached which forces the person who hits the button to say WHY they trust that person. FaceBook “Like” is wishy-washy and any bot can have 500 tweets a day with 1500 people, but trust is a serious commitment. Trust is the root of true influence.

So my 10th and final prediction is that Influence measurement is the holy grail and anyone saying they have THE way to measure it is selling you something. Sure, maybe that makes me a Klown, but nobody listens to me anyway, my Klout score is too low…

Thus ends my rambling end to a new beginning in 2011. Enjoy it, become outraged, or whatever you choose to do. I’m cool with it and wish all of you immense success in 2011 and beyond.

Cheers and beers!

Jeff – Sensei

November 23, 2010

Is Social Media Just a Channel?

I have been in some interesting debates recently on Twitter in chats such as #mmchat and #techchat on whether or not Social Media is just another channel. While I disagree with almost every word these particular people type, I wanted to make sure this topic was approached objectively… well, somewhat objectively.

Why not just share my intensely subjective perspective on this subject? Well, here are a couple reasons…

  • Its a burning question for many marketers (and now senior executives) that once answered provides perspective on strategy, integration, approach, internal/external policy, and execution of your social program.
  • I take my responsibility as a blogger and consultant very seriously when it comes to presenting and arguing issues. The last thing you want is a lop-sided diatribe for or against… unless that’s your bag.


The Answer to the Question Depends on Where You Sit in the Enterprise

The key to answering this question is perspective and perspective depends on your role and your ability to see past that role to the big picture of how a channel affects the enterprise ecosystem; defined as the company, its employees, partners and customers.

In fact, each of these communities within the ecosystem most likely view the social channel quite differently ranging between passionate adopters and fiercely indifferent.  But before we get deep into perspectives, let’s look at  some of the past winners and see their impact.

Television- Definite impact on marketing and customers for mass market reach, but didn’t really change the business model. TV became a deeply embedded part of the customer’s lifestyle and a focal point for many decades.

The Web- Huge impact on the enterprise ecosystem affecting every party (for good and bad). I have always viewed web/automation systems as the slow death of service and customer relationships as well as enabling global competition amongst other revolutions. The Web is also the birth mother of Social and the enlightened customer. Again, another channel that grew beyond its intent to become part of the customer’s lifestyle.

Retail – A channel and a business model really, but worth noting as it plays double duty. Keeps evolving and impacting the enterprise as the number one way to transact with a customer. Probably the channel that has had the broadest impact on any business forcing huge changes in supply chain, operations, etc.. but doesn’t apply to everyone.

So What is the Social Channel and How Does it Compare?

Well, for starters, its very early in its evolution and adoption by companies is slow, so its impact is still based on educated guessing. For many B2C companies however, the social channel is increasingly gaining in strategic value as it redefines the customer relationship – driven largely by the customer.

  • Social Channel for customer acquisition: The most obvious and plentiful application of social media as companies look to establish foot prints in the big social networks. What’s the impact on customer acquisition? Well, for companies who are not inherently social, low. For those that are socially aligned, its impact is broad. Just look at how Ford has evolved itself to apply Social to build market share.
  • Social Channel for existing customers: Sadly, the most overlooked and highest potential application of social media is for existing customer communities. Why is it that we treat those most loyal to us the worst? The current impact is minimal in my mind, but the future potential of enabled customer communities is immense becoming a key source of driving product and service innovation for smart companies. This is a game changer.
  • Social Channel for partners: Is this even on the radar yet? My feeling is the impact will not be felt for quite a while. Feel free to enlighten me if you know more or have examples.
  • Social Channel for employees: Interestingly, many companies, especially B2B enterprise are just scratching the surface on this. The mother to internal social is the intranet of course; a channel with questionable impact. But, in the same way that social can rapidly evolve the business’ relationship with the customer, it can also do so with employees; the lifeblood of the enterprise. Again, the impact is minimal now, but as companies become more comfortable with social, my bet is game changer.


Some Big Wins:

  • Revolutionizing customer service and support. Think of how Best Buy is using it.
  • Reach is immense, cheap and fast with the right targeting. Yes, I said targeting, but that’s another post altogether.
  • It has dramatically improved our ability to get up-to- the-minute research on our brands/customers
  • It woke us up to real customer need. Sometimes quite rudely. Such is the case when we ignore those most important to us.


Some Big Challenges:

  • “Always on Air” is a huge risk for companies especially for publicly traded ones.
  • Paradigm shift from one way communications to two way communications.
  • Attitudinal shift from selfish corporate agenda to being perceived as not having one.
  • Figuring it all out before it changes yet again!


Potential Enterprise Impact:

It has the capability to truly integrate customers, employees and yet-to-be customers into one harmonious ecosystem. Companies that master this new channel will quite literally dominate in their categories. An unfair competitive advantage to be sure, but we are far from that Nirvana.

So the question still stands, is Social Media just a channel? To answer this, let’s ask some other questions that may help bring clarity and perspective!

If someone asked you to sculpt a statue would you make a David or a pile of unrecognizable rubble?

If you were asked to make a fine wine would you make a Domaine Romanée-Conti or a bottle of low grade hooch?

How about something simple like a meal. Would you make an award wining creation or pot of good ol’ reliable Kraft Dinner?

Could it be that much like the examples above, Social Media is what you make of it? So what makes a master work versus a pile of rubble?

The Difference Between a Channel and an Experience is Mastery

Channels deliver experiences and the quality of the experience relates directly to the effort, passion and innovative thinking you put into it. Much like great restaurants are a blend of sophisticated cooking, imaginative ideas and respect for ingredients, Social Media is a blend of sophisticated service, imaginative ideas and respect for people.

Mastery is a long process of course, but the point is that if you have the vision and the tenacity to see it through, Social Media can be much, much more. Great social experiences remind us why some companies deserve to be revered and others deserve to be ignored – effectively separating the wheat from the chaff.

So is Social Media just a channel? It can be. After all, the people that use it are just customers…

October 6, 2010

A Sensei Perspective on Facebook

A rather smart chap I recently met by the name of Tommy ( @tommyismyname ) asked me for my opinion on a recent blog post of his regarding whether you love or hate facebook. This does require a name and email to download his FB report so be forewarned, but it is worth the read as Tommy is a very sharp knife in a drawer full of dull cutlery!

So do I hate or love Facebook? Neither answer works for me really. For what originally started out as a way to meet chicks for a couple horny college kids, its a smashing success. Whatever you believe, you absolutely have to respect what Facebook is – A Social Media Leviathan.

Personally I don’t use it, but I’m fascinated by its current power and future potential.


Well, contrary to many other social platforms, Facebook has found one of the keys to success in B2C relationships – create an addictive positive experience. The constant flow of human drama from friends and friends of friends is reality TV served up in ADD fashion about your favorite people, your friends. It has taken gossip to a whole new level.  Add to this social games like Farmville and its ilk with the ability to compete and work with your friends delivers you addictive content of the highest order.

Think about it, last I knew back in March, Farmville had 82 million users a month on average planting crops and raising herds on Facebook… That is astounding in my opinion. If marketers and companies are looking for the future of social, Farmville and Facebook are harbingers of what’s to come for interactive social media. Its a fascinating mix of social influence, social obligation, personal accomplishment, competition and addiction.


The biggest question in my mind is how its going to work for big business. They are struggling to understand how it applies to business. For consumers, its a runaway hit. But business, well, I have yet to recommend to a client “make a Facebook page” primarily because I still see no tangible value to B2B enterprises. The issue for B2B adoption is the simple fact that Facebook was designed for personal use, not for business. That’s the conundrum.

If you re-invent or transform the current, you risk losing your core audience – consumers; the ones that bring them to the dance. So the B2B play has to be separate and focused on business. is it worth it? If done right, it could be a killer. If done poorly, its a tremendous loss of reputation and potential opportunity.

B2C on the other hand, has more of a fighting chance on Facebook due to their relevancy to the consumers life. But do consumers want brands on Facebook? Maybe they do or maybe they find the presence intrusive.

How do Consumers Perceive Business on Facebook?

Human behavior is such that we fiercely protect our “safe zone”- our homes, our close friends, and our online sanctuaries. We resent companies and individuals who try to force their way in without being invited. Its our turf and we defend it right? Maybe that’s the key to the future? Allowing consumers to invite brands into their inner circle to participate, even just listen. That’s powerful engagement!

Whatever the rationale you have for loving or hating Facebook (or any feeling in between) you have to respect it for what its done to advance customer relations and bring balance to how companies and consumers relate to each other.

Tell Us How You Really Feel Jeff!

Fine, I’ll stop avoiding the question and admit it. Fear might be a good description to describe how I personally feel about Facebook.

Fear for what could happen if they abuse their power or go too far in the wrong direction. The consequences could be devastating to the entire Social movement not mention the hundreds of millions of people and businesses involved. In many ways, the future of Consumer Social Media is riding on them.

Fear of monopoly is another type of fear I have. They are clearly the market leader by miles, perhaps not by growth now, but adoption in emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Mexico is just starting spurred by big improvements in 3G wireless technology and reliable mobile devices. And with a country like India having the lowest mobile web usage for females in the world, you know the real growth is just around the corner. For a monster like Facebook, they could conceivably reach a billion users in the not too distant future.

Just as an aside, were I an executive at Facebook, I’d be looking to Indian wireless companies for big partnerships to reach that female demographic as the social network of choice – the enabler of their social voice in a rapidly changing Indian socio-political environment. I might even consider buying a wireless company to serve that demographic. Just a thought though.

I mean in 4-5 short years, Facebook has surpassed most Fortune 1000 companies for reach to consumers, a task that took these traditional companies decades and billions of dollars to achieve. How many companies can say they have that many customers? The kicker is that Facebook doesn’t need to market itself, its customers do all of that for them accounting for the most magnificent viral marketing campaign in human history.

So where are they going?

I don’t think even they know, but their customers do and as long as they listen to them, keep responding to their needs and most importantly, don’t sell them out, Facebook will be king of the hill for a long time. Check out these March 2010 stats on their growth past the big search portals and shift of ad spending to Facebook.

If they can keep themselves at the center of the consumers life, as the enabler for their social interactions with friends and family, then their empire will last a long, long time. Which quite frankly excites me!

So how do I really feel? Fear and Excitement. Just like getting ready for a big date with the prettiest girl in school and hoping she isn’t going to punk me in front of all the cool kids.

Thanks for making me think Tommy and i hope I did your post justice!


Jeff – Sensei

October 2, 2010

Fall Editorial Schedule for The MountainTop

Filed under: Editorial Schedule,General,Overview — Jeff @ 1:59 pm

For those that know me, I have been going through some personal challenges for the past 2 months and as such, my blogging and core business has suffered. My mother suffers from severe Bi-Polar illness with an alcohol addiction and I have been helping her get back on her feet after leaving her husband of 20 years. Its been very trying but I made the choice to set aside my professional career consciously – knowing full well it could affect my business negatively and it did.

Why am I opening up with something obviously very personal for a blog editorial schedule? Well, its because I’ve learned so much in that time about myself, about my mother and about nature that my perspective on business, marketing and the world has changed a bit; hopefully for the better.

Now that my mother is almost into her own place, I can begin to gain my old stride, deliver more provocative thinking and share the thinking of others with you.

The Fall schedule will focus on 3 main topics:

  1. Natural Selection in Social Media Environments. A further exploration of how the laws of Natural Selection not only apply to Social Media environments, but how we can identify and harness these laws to our advantage.
  2. Online Demand Generation. Discussing advanced techniques for Enterprise companies to improve awareness, social engagement, lead quality and revenue from the online channels.
  3. Spotlights. This is something I have been thinking about for awhile now and I believe its time. So many Enterprise companies are looking for insight past the “How to use Twitter and Facebook” so I am going to really dig into enterprise level issues as well as looking at some low hanging fruit in relation to:
    1. Off the radar social communities worth investing in.
    2. Social targeting: customer and generational segmentation in social marketing
    3. B2B customer behavior and psychology
    4. Enterprise social marketing issues such as managing multiple global brands, social sales, mobile convergence, etc…
    5. Interviews with prominent, thought-provoking B2B and B2C marketing leaders to tap their genius on all of the above and more.

Guest Bloggers and “left of center” Research

I will be inviting some colleagues to blog at The Mountain Top; all Sensei’s in their own rights. One interesting collaboration coming up will explore the Nature of Social Influence to the next level with my good friend Stephane Poirier @ExoPoirier . It should be a great post as Stephane applies some advanced thinking on Chaos and Complexity Theory to the social equation.

Lastly, I am going to bring in some enlightening and sometimes absurd research from other industries and disciplines to try create some new perspective for Enterprise marketers. The whole point is to be able to strengthen your understanding of people and communication channels by looking at what other people are doing and being able to take that learning and apply it for your customers.

Let me know what you want and I’ll find a way to get it for you

Most importantly, if you have ideas or questions you would like me to tackle and blog on, just let me know here by comment or by email jeff(at)senseintegrated(dot)com or on Twitter @jeffthesensei. I can’t promise answers, but what I can promise is a great intellectual and spiritual journey with you to find the answers.

Cheers and thanks for reading. I hope to continue earning that trust into the fall and beyond.

Jeff – Sensei

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

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