Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Message For Facebook

Dear Facebook, 

We've been friends for awhile. According to your records, since May 8, 2008. For a long time you were a lot of fun and I genuinely believed that you really were interested in working to improve my experience on your network.

But then you went public and as things work in our world, needed to get to the business of making serious money. I can't blame you. Money pays the bills.

Unfortunately the valuation of your business far exceeded the reality. That's a lot of internal pressure. A lot of creative thinking on new revenue models. Particularly challenging in a world that no longer wants to feel "sold to" or "marketed to" or "pushed."

Again - as a businesswoman I get it. As a digital strategist and former advertising salesperson I get it. And as an adjunct professor in digital marketing I get it.

But it's starting to get out of hand. You are starting to not  listen to me, your customer.

For weeks you have been annoying me - trying to get me to download your Messenger App. I assumed you understood my closing the pop-up meant I was not interested. But apparently you didn't get it. It continued to appear - which annoyed me even more.

Now I get an email from you telling me if I want to continue messaging from my iPhone, I have to download your App. Since you have not been listening to date -  I will repeat - I am annoyed. In fact, now I am REALLY annoyed.

I don't like anyone telling me what I "have to do" much less a social network that - to put it bluntly - is just not as much fun as it used to be.

My newsfeed is cluttered with stuff I didn't ask for.
Sponsored posts outweigh those from my "friends."
Every time you change an algorithm I have to go into my privacy settings to make sure you have not defaulted them back to what you want them to be. 
And, I'm tired that every time I take a peek at a new pair of shoes they follow me around like a lost puppy. 

I don't want your new Messenger App. And I won't be downloading it. Today or anytime soon. Truth be told, I don't even like to use it on my desktop. You already have more information about what I am doing and who I am connecting with than I would like. You can call it "private" messaging but I know the truth - someone over at FB headquarters is mining that text for data that you can use to make more money. I am not interested in adding to that stockpile. 

So if one of my Facebook "friends" happens to private message me - they'll have to wait until I am in front of my computer to hear back. I am okay with that. Because really - if it's so important to reach me - they have other choices.

Email. Text message. Other social networks we are connected on - the ones that are still fun and/or useful - like Twitter and LinkedIn. Besides, if it's really critical - they can do something decidedly retro - pick up the phone and call me.

My guess is the reason you are forcing this issue now is because there are a lot more people like me who have been refusing to download the Messenger App and you have sold this through already to clients and need to deliver.

I get that. 

But I don't care.

However, you should. 

The way I see it - new social networks will continue to proliferate in much the same way that cable networks did, going after niche markets or in this case - like-minded people. Some will be more successful and others not so. But in every case they will mirror what cable did - continue to pull share away from the broadcast networks - all because they did a better job of listening to what people really want. 

So Facebook, we are not through.  At least not yet. As I said earlier, I teach this stuff - so I like to keep my hands in it. But if you thought trying to force an unwanted App at me was going to increase my engagement - it is doing just the opposite.  You see - I still watch broadcast television - just less of it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Story

Once upon a time there was a story.

The story had a beginning, a middle and an end.

It had a really great opener that hooked you in.

It had interesting and complex characters you wanted to know more about.

It was told around campfires, written on stone tablets, acted out on stage and printed on leaflets. It was shared at parties and in bars and on park benches. It was listened to on wireless radios, made into movies and television shows.

The story kept spreading until one day something called the world wide web was invented.

Now there were new ways to tell the story. In blog posts, podcasts, You Tube and Vine videos, Tweets and Facebook posts. Sometimes the story was told in words and sometimes in pictures. Sometimes both.

But the one thing that never changed was the story itself.

Yes - there were new twists and fresh takes. The characters varied, appearing in an assortment of shapes and sizes and with unfamiliar names. 

No matter how many different ways it was told or tweaks  made or mediums created through which to tell it - the story kept drawing people in. 

It hit that sweet spot. The one that connects hearts and souls. That makes us pause and think, laugh or cry, happy or angry. 

The one that makes it a story worth sharing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Art Of The Make-Good

I was raised in a business where the make-good was a vehicle to cultivate relationships. 

When we didn't run your radio schedule in the right dayparts - we never said sorry, that's too bad. We offered make-good spots.

When we ran the wrong ad copy, we never said - oh, how embarrassing for you -  we offered make-goods. 

When we ran your sixty-second commercial spot next to a competitor - after we promised not to - make-goods where what we offered.

It was a rare moment when the radio station suggested a cash refund. In fact, so rare I am not sure we ever did. For a couple of reasons.

We wanted the cash to stay on the books. We were after all - a for profit business. If we suggested make-goods on the next schedule the implication was there would be a next order. We wanted to keep the client relationship moving forward.  

We wanted it known that yes - we acknowledge the fact we screwed up but we care enough to make it right and to do better the next time you picked us to air your ad campaign. We knew that it was a lot easier to renew an existing customer - even a slightly disgruntled one - than to go out and find a new one. And the best way to do that was to let them know we cared enough to own up to our error and right our wrong. 

What we never, ever did was sayGee, so sorry that happened. Too bad. Here's your money back.  Buh bye!

We looked for a way to make that client feel heard and special - because we knew at the end of the day that is all any of us really want and that is how relationships are cultivated. We knew the relationships we made were the foundation of our reputation - both personally and as a radio station -  and that would pay itself forward. It was never just about our product and delivery - but how we made that client feel.

We understood market volatility. It was inherent in the radio business. One day they had to buy our station - the next our ratings could sink to the bottom of the heap and we were nothing more than an afterthought. Our relationship was key to getting bought in those downturns. 

So when there was a problem - we looked to make it good. We had no email to hide behind in the eighties. We faced our dissatisfied customers. We picked up the phone and had a real, live human conversation. We didn’t wait 24 hours to respond. We were on it immediately. No matter how big or small the client was. We made it urgent. And those of us who were particularly smart, knew that when there was a really big problem, our best bet was to avoid the phone and get ourselves in front of the person with whom we'd screwed up. Because that is how the best relationships are cultivated and that is how things get mended when torn apart.

I've taken that philosophy to every place I have ever worked and continue to embody it today in all of my business dealings. It’s how I built my reputation as someone people wanted to work with.

So I'm always surprised when I encounter people who don’t.

Especially in a world where it only takes one disconcerted person to take your misstep to soclal media.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Day My Posts Got Monitored

About a week ago this little blue message appeared in the sidebar in one of my LinkedIn groups.

I won't write the exact words that spewed from my lips - that might cause this post to get flagged too, but you get the gist. I checked my other LinkedIn groups. The same horrifying little blue sidebar mention appeared again and again. My trusty egg timer signaled the end of my twenty-minute LinkedIn allotment for the morning but it didn't matter. I was now operating in triage mode.  Since I know what spam looks like - even though right this minute the Canadians are in the process of redefining it - and I preach relevancy online and offline -  I was off to get to the bottom of this. 

I clicked the link to “learn more” and read through an article on Moderation of Your Posts in Multiple Groups. It offered some nice and little known information about the inner workings of LinkedIn Groups, but nothing specific. I wanted details. I wanted to know what post had put me on group probation and where it occurred. If nothing else I saw this as a teachable moment that would serve not only me but everyone I work with.

I sent a note to LinkedIn customer service and tried to practice patience.

However, patience is not my strongest virtue so I decided  to make best use of my wait time by trying to figure this out myself.  I scrolled through all my recent posts and tried to determine which might be construed as "not relevant" or "spam."

Was it the article on How You Fascinate in which I share Sally Hogshead’s brilliant Fascination Advantage Assessment? 

Was it the one on How Social Networks Like Twitter Can Influence?

Or was it the one on The Upside Of The Stress Of Living In A Digital World? Yes, that was about my trip to Cabo but it had relevance to life in the digital age.

Had I posted in too many groups at once?
But if that sets it off, why would the Sharing Bookmarklet on  LinkedIn allow multiple postings to begin with? Google+ prevents sharing in more than one community at a time.

Was it my references in my blogs to my Your Digital You Workshops? 
But then who doesn't create content without at least an implied "ask"?

I admit it. I was traumatized. I felt censored. It was as if suddenly this brave new digital world that I evangelize had put a great big old gag in my mouth.  Yes - I could still post - but not without a secret review board.

Something felt so very wrong.

LinkedIn was pretty, and I will add impressively, quick to respond. Even if their answer didn’t suffice.  More links to  more articles that were supposed to offer insight as to what it might be and best practices for postings - but nothing specific to me. I wanted specifics. 

So I pushed. 

It was suggested that I contact all of my Groups managers. A lovely suggestion if I was in a handful of groups. But at last count I was in 26 and had no intention of writing to every manager  - nor did I think I should have to. 

Yes - I was getting edgy. 

I asked to be referred up the ladder. 

While I waited for that reply my imagination ran wild. 

Was there someone out there in one of my groups who had done this on purpose? 

Who was out to get me and what I do? 

Had someone dismissed me the way I do an annoying ad in my Facebook feed? 

What could I have possibly posted that was so misconstrued?

The Internet was supposed to be a place to freely exchange information and opinion?

What was going on?

A day of this obsessive brainstorming passed  before  I got an answer. LinkedIn gave me the name of the culprit group as well as the suggestion I reach out to them for details or “seek membership in a more receptive group.”

I won't name names but I will say it took me quite by surprise.

I reached out. The person I corresponded with apologized but shirked responsibility.  They said that the flag came from members of the group and was not something the administrator or manager had done. 

Which is not entirely true. I’ve since learned Group Managers can choose to allow or not allow member flagging and even set a number of flags barometer. And when that’s triggered, it still shows up in their cue as to what has been flagged - so the group manager knows. Whether they choose to intervene is on them. 

They did not specify what post or posts set this whole thing off. My guess is that while they are actively using it for their own self-promotion - which is why most groups are formed - I get it -  they really don't have anyone moderating  contributions other than their own.

Which left me, the self-proclaimed digital evangelist who promotes the sharing of relevant, useful and sometimes entertaining content both disconcerted and reflective.

It put me on pause. Since I still didn’t know what set the whole trauma off I found myself a bit fearful of writing something that would trigger it again. I felt stifled and uncertain.

And then I came to my senses. 

I don’t spread spam. I share good content. That doesn’t mean everyone will like it or even interpret it the way I intended. I can’t trouble shoot everything. I can employ best practices. But as long as I continue to share my blog I assume risks. Like being flagged in a group whose members might not think like I do.

In which case, LinkedIn offered very good advice. Seek more receptive groups.