Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

Haven’t I Suffered Enough Already?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Since moving to the Twin Cities five years ago, about 50% of the time when I meet someone and they learn I’m from Cleveland their first question to me is: “How about The Drive?  Or The Fumble? Or The Shot? Or Jose Mesa’s meltdown? Or how Chad Ogea’s name was practically engraved on the 1997 World Series MVP trophy before the Marlins snatched it from your hands?” And most recently, they ask about “The Decision.” Evidently, being a Cleveland sports fan means a lifetime of suffering with a capitalized article to punctuate the pain. And a lot of questions from people who think they are making polite conversation by tearing my soul out and showing it to me. Yet every year I come back for more. Every single painful year.

To enhance the pain, I run the Twin Cities Browns Backers club. That’s right, even in Minnesota there’s a collection (on average about thirty people) of lost souls that line up each week to see what new and original ways our beloved Browns can break our hearts. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I spent thirty of my thirty-seven (gulp!) years in Cleveland and miss it every day. This last weekend, my wife and I had a whirlwind tour of Cleveland. We flew in on Saturday for a wedding and then out after brunch with my parents on Sunday. However, we managed to sneak out of the wedding around eight to watch a pre-season Browns game on one TV with the Indians game on the TV right next to it. As any sports fan knows, it doesn’t ever get any better than that.

With the start of the pre-season, I’m also reminded that I need to start on my duties as president of the Twin Cities club. It isn’t much effort. I make sure the people who just moved to the Twin Cities know where we meet, reply to any inquiries from the Browns and answer any emails I get from club members. It doesn’t take a lot of my time, but it is important to get done timely – something I admittedly struggle with. Another thing I have to deal with is marketing emails, quite a few of them actually. You see, there are over 300 Browns Backer clubs with almost 91,000 members world-wide. Some of those clubs are within shouting distance of the stadium in Cleveland and others are as far-flung as Alaska, England, Germany, and even Afghanistan! Since the club presidents’ email addresses are posted on the Cleveland Browns website, I think you can see how easy it would be to pull those email addresses, and shoot out a note to all the club presidents asking them to forward their products along to their club members.

I’ve received offers for Cleveland Browns branded cow bells, pajamas, overalls, hardhats, dog biscuits, tents, cruises with players, and a myriad of other services, memorabilia and silly stuff that I don’t even care to recount. While the formatting is different, the message is always the same: “My NFL licensed Cleveland Browns pet diapers are the coolest thing since NFL licensed Cleveland Browns sliced bread and I’d love you to pass this thing along to your club members.” What most of the messages are not is CAN-SPAM compliant. And that’s a problem. If your email is reported to the FTC as violating the CAN-SPAM Act, an organization could be liable for fines of up to $16,000 per email. I honestly don’t think an organization selling portable plastic tailgating horseshoes can cover the exposure of one reported violation, let alone 300 of them—even if they are approved by the “American Tailgaiters Association.” (On a complete aside, why do we need an American Tailgaiters Association? Isn’t our Sunday fun structured enough?) It’s usually something basic that causes the violation. Things like not offering a link to opt-out or not having a physical address in the email. Both of which are essential to stay compliant.

All of the companies I get email offers from are small businesses. I don’t blame them for reaching out to me to peddle their wares even if my club is 700 miles away from Cleveland. However, they still need to follow the law and use appropriate marketing techniques. I don’t know if these small businesses even understand that they are required to be CAN-SPAM compliant in all their messaging. Even if you are sitting in a room, copying and pasting messages into one-on-one emails with personalized subject lines, you still need to follow the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act. We don’t have an existing business relationship and we aren’t friends, so if you want to market to me, you need to follow the law. It’s as simple as that. Businesses and Organizations of any size can learn more about the simple rules email marketing is required to follow at the FTC website.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a little internet shopping for an NFL licensed Cleveland Browns branded house where I can store all my NFL licensed Cleveland Browns knickknacks.


Quiet Remorse Codes

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

As many of you who got my out-of-office already knew, I was off in New York City last week meeting the internet and being a fanny-pack wearing tourist. I ate pizza, saw an army of rats, managed not to get too lost on the subway and saw a ton of QR Codes. They were everywhere in their boxy three-eyed black and white glory. I saw them fifty feet high in Times Square, five centimeters high on price tags, and even saw a tattoo parlor that specialized in QR Codes and I got my Twitter link inked (okay not actually true). But the most pervasive place I saw QR Codes was at the “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

After spending some time reflecting on some amazing paintings by Picasso, Dali and Matisse, then wondering about the artistic merits of “Completely Black Canvas #25” and “Oblong White Paint Splotch On The Floor,” we headed into the very overwhelming Design and Communication display. It was a cross between a traditional glass case collection and an 80’s arcade with beeps, boops and flashing lights around every corner and on every wall. While it was challenging to take it all in, the Museum had done something very interesting with the collection. With each piece’s description, there was a QR Code for further information and a hashtag to use for Twitter, and for one brief moment, I thought I was in geek nirvana.

That joyous feeling quickly faded as I whipped out my trusty Blackberry and hit up my QR Code app. Rather than seamlessly providing me with additional information, the code just failed to load. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my phone is still loading that first QR Code link. While my Blackberry may be a touch underpowered for web browsing, it should still easily load a page dedicated to a QR Code. Sensing my disappointment, a friend offered me her iPhone. I quickly downloaded a reader and snapped the first code again. The page loaded, after a while, to the tiniest photos ever. Seeing as I had forgotten my monocle in my other pants, I could not really tell what was on my screen. Clearly the website had not been optimized for use with mobile devices, which is disappointing because nowhere in the collection was there a Baby Bjorn for desktop computers with an add-on power supply. It’s a real shame that all the time spent designing the QR Codes and making the additional website content was wasted because it wasn’t set up for use on a mobile device. I tried to load the QR Code for Bat Billboard, and, as you can see, on the desktop it’s a confusing design and would be virtually impossible to manage on a phone.

It’s ironic, and not in the Alanis Morissette sense, that an exhibit designed to illustrate the impact of design on how people interact with communication devices failed to take into account the communication device being used to talk about the exhibit. That’s a mouthful of a sentence but an important lesson. When designing QR Codes the links they lead to can’t be splashy and fancy-pants, instead they need to be simple and effective. I don’t want to wait ninety seconds or more for a forty-five second video to load. At that point, I’m gone and won’t be back. If you are using QR Codes remember the QR stands for Quick Response and not quiet remorse. Your customers, donors or other interested parties don’t expect them to be a hassle. They want information now and they want it to be pertinent.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hunting for a tattoo removal specialist.


I already bought. I already bought.

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A coworker sent me an article about collaboration between Google and SAP that allows SAP customers to overlay Google Earth and Google Maps information to manage “big data.” It’s a really interesting concept and if you are curious you can read about it on TechCrunch. It seems like every day we get a groovy new analytics tool or new social media platform to connect businesses with other businesses or businesses with consumers or Twitter with my cat, but a lot of organizations seem to be missing out on some of the basics when it comes to marketing. In other words, as people get new toys, organizations may appear to overlook the basic tools that helped make them successful in the first place. I have quite a number of examples, but the two below are a great illustration of how applying the most basic in-house information tools can help to reduce waste and better target your customer or donor base before using advanced analytics tools to improve your reach within a specific market.

It’s only taken us three years (a long time in married years) to finally consolidate my car insurance with my wife’s insurance. Yes, we should have done it a long time ago, but in our defense we were really busy with not doing it. Within two weeks of the new plan, I received a mailer offering to lower my rates by switching to the exact same insurance company. Although I brought it in and set it next to the refund check for my new insurance (an additional $20 discount!), it’ll be going straight into the recycling bin. I just got your insurance, I suppose I could up my coverage to protect my amazing sports-themed gnome collection, but I’ve got nothing to switch.

In the same vein, my wife and I have a credit card with an airline rewards program. We’ve had this card for quite a while now and use it fastidiously for frequent flier furlongs (1/8 of a mile if you are scoring at home). The rub however is at least twice a month I get fancy mail pieces offering a free checked bag if I get the credit card that I already have along with a couple of emails with the same offer. And the emails link to the website where I often purchase plane tickets with this same credit card in question. Actually, if I combined the mail pieces with printed copies of the emails I get with the same offer, I’d have enough paper to fill my free checked bag.

I’d assume that a large insurance company and a major credit card company and airline would leverage some of the most powerful tools in the technology world to ensure they wouldn’t make the mistake of sending me offers for products I already have. Turns out they don’t. Instead, they could save a few bucks by doing a duplicate elimination between their customer databases and the prospects they are trying to target. It would cost them a heck of a lot less money to clean their customers from a prospect list than it costs in printing and postage in an attempt to convert people already using their products and services.

It’s often the simple things to eliminate waste and create good interactions with clients and prospects that make the biggest impact. While it is super-cool and really useful to be able to drill down on your business data with Google Maps, it’s probably more valuable to be able to identify those who are already using your service—then ensure you are talking with them in a way they prefer and are more receptive. You need technology to accomplish those things, but it doesn’t have to be bleeding edge. Make sure you are getting the easy stuff right, and then move on to the cool toys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my underground lair to invent a cat with laser beam whiskers.


One Circle To Rule Them All?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

At some point during the last twenty-four hours, I’ve accessed Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce’s Chatter, Groupwise Messenger and Google+. I also talked to my father on the phone and received a text message from my wife—it said “moo.” While the time I spent on each communication platform wasn’t excessive, it adds up quickly to an amount that would allow me to build an addition on my house—or at least get the dishes washed. There are some people that can reach me on as many as nine of these eleven different communication mediums! It’s hard to believe any one person can manage all of those platforms in a twenty-four hour period with less stress than is involved in setting the timer on the coffee pot. Here’s the essential question when I think about this: Is it better to be tied to many different platforms and manage interactions across all mediums, or would it be less challenging to manage fewer platforms but wade through more information?

Most days I just coast along and do communication rather than think about it. I write emails at work, wade through tweets, occasionally smirk at a Facebook status and try to figure what I should be doing with LinkedIn. Some days I do all that, and blog! However, with the release of Google+, I’m starting to evaluate all these different platforms and trying to make sense of my daily communication. I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t interested in Google+ until I got an invite to join (funny how that happens). While I need another social media platform like I need that hole in my head from the ill-advised earring from college, there’s something very compelling about Google+. There is also something very concerning to me.

In a quick overview, Google+ is kind of like a long-form version of Twitter with the ability to comment like Facebook, Tumblr’s ability to integrate images into posts, a whole slew of other nifty features, and the promise of even more integration with other Google applications. It sounds fantastic, but it also sounds like an informational firehose that will be difficult to turn off. Google Circles is the following/follower management system for Google+ and its premise is that it allows you to post to the people you want, when you want, based on the Circle you’ve placed someone in. It breaks down the “Walled Garden” concept of other social media platforms, where the application is separate from the web at large, and transcends the specific one-on-one communication of email. While it sounds great for the broadcasting aspect of Google+, I worry that it won’t actually work for inbound information. In a sense, you always go to the main “Stream” page much like Facebook’s “News Feed” where you are inundated with everything everyone wants to say. It’s like ordering cable, but being forced to watch all the channels at once.

Today, I can ignore Facebook for a few days before the guilt rolls in. Or, I can take a night off from Twitter and if someone wants to reach me they can. My business life won’t end if I don’t check LinkedIn. With Google+, the potential to have all of those different audiences together (even if they are parceled out into different Circles) could make it too compelling to never take a day off. The non-stop flow of information into your stream will be challenging–even moving from Circle to Circle, the idea that “just one more group” could leave us wide awake late into the night. Adding to this is the possibility that having it tied to everything else I do on the web will make it a bit too overwhelming. I’m not predicting this is the Matrix, but if I want to take five minutes to read the latest musings from my favorite unemployed stand-up comic in one circle, but always feel compelled by guilt to comment on what my mother had for lunch (in the same application) we are moving away from something we do, to something we have to do. And for me that’s the biggest concern with breaking out of the siloed approach to social media that Google+ plus offers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cross post the link to this blog on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and email it to my friends. Oh yeah, and I have to do it on my personal and work accounts.


You Can Reunite on Facebook, But You Can’t Have a Reunion

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

I wrote this tweet seven months ago, “Last night I caught up with old friends at a bar by passing around iPhone photos of kids and pets. It was like Facebook, but with germs.” As silly as it was, in many ways it was the truth. I found myself home in Cleveland, with my wife and some friends catching up—something that I don’t get to do very often—laughing and mixing stories from the past with current events, getting the details on a story or a photo that had been posted to Facebook with little explanation. We were getting, as Paul Harvey might say, “the rest of the story.” While the distinct advantage of Facebook allows us to keep in touch with a large number of people we might not otherwise keep up with, clicking a “Like” or writing short comments on one of their posts is a far cry from why we became friends with them in the first place.

That night was on my mind as I was composing an email to be sent to my fellow college alumni for our upcoming reunion. I’m on the reunion committee and I needed to motivate them to come back for a weekend to a place we loved so much fifteen years ago. I’ve had student loans longer than it’s been since I’ve seen some of my former classmates. My strategy was to remind people that face-to-face interaction is much more valuable than Facebook. Events like a class reunion or alumni weekend are really an exercise for schools to market nostalgia and using Facebook to leverage that concept is worth exploring for many organizations.

Interestingly, the email I drafted ultimately followed a more traditional direct-mail campaign route, once the university concluded that it would be more effective as a letter sent out to all my classmates. It was odd to see my own letter arrive in the mail last Saturday, but it was a compelling reminder that any good marketing campaign needs to rely on multiple channels to be successful. You can’t just send emails and you can’t only rely on Facebook. Instead, electronic and social media marketing can be greatly enhanced by traditional channels of communication. Indeed, given the sheer amount of electronic communications we get in an average day, going back to basics by sending out my missive as a letter through the mail was the best way to get it to stand out.

In thinking about how Facebook affects the communications I have with my classmates, I came across an interesting piece from Christopher Mims called, How Facebook Killed Your School Reunion. Mims looks at the myriad of articles about how Facebook is either promoting larger attendance at reunions or eliminating them altogether, depending on the year or the author. As he explains, “In 2009 the Facebook-is-killing-reunions trend story became an official part of the annual journalistic calendar, like stories about the war on Christmas or tips for singles on Valentine’s day.” It’s interesting because he argues that recently there has been a decline in reunions nation-wide and speculates that it may be caused by Facebook. Personally, I think the recession and the difficulty for younger folks to find permanent employment may also be implicated in the decline of reunions. The article is worth a read, if only to ponder your own thoughts on the matter.

To try to and get another perspective on the issue, I figured I’d go and ask the man who needed me to compose my letter in the first place, John Coyne, Director of Alumni Relations at Hiram College. In contrast to Mims, he believes Facebook has helped strengthen alumni bonds: “We’ve seen a steady increase in our annual alumni reunion weekend attendance over the past 5 years. Facebook connects people with others whom they might not have kept in touch with otherwise, and allows them to cast a broad net when sending messages that encourage attendance.” He also proposed an interesting side-effect, “I’ve also noticed that people find that they have more to talk about rather than just the past since they have been lightly keeping up with each other on Facebook.” Like the tweet in my introduction, the addition of Facebook and Twitter has actually helped to enhance the reunion experience and cannot be discounted as part of future school events like my upcoming Alumni Weekend.

The net is that any nostalgia driven event needs work within the context of social media applications like Facebook and Twitter, while still understanding that email and even more traditional direct mail are still important facets for driving attendance and ultimately donations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go drop a few pounds so I can show up at my reunion at the same weight as my Facebook profile picture.


A Raucous Cacophony of Sharing

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

You know those extra buttons at the bottom of a dress shirt that you never actually use? They just sort of get in the way and eventually fall off and are never around when you actually need one. Then you get rid of the shirt and six months later you find the replacement button hiding in an athletic sock that you haven’t worn since the last time you went to the gym. That’s how I’m starting to feel about the “share” buttons at the end of every single piece of media content I read. While individuals do have very passionate feelings toward their social media information aggregator of choice, I wonder if it’s really valuable for a personal or corporate brand to manage all these different sites. Does it really make sense to spread yourself all over the interwebs with every social network possible, or is it more effective to manage a few and be more focused?

As I’ve written before, Lorton Data has a Facebook page, a new Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, a YouTube page, an email newsletter and this rather lovely blog. That’s enough for an organization of our size to manage. Bringing in more social media platforms would be problematic for us. Recently, we’ve attended quite a few lunch-and-learn webinars (why don’t they ever email us pizza and a nice salad beforehand?) that argue that we should be social in every aspect of our business and that each social media platform is the most important thing since the invention of the telephone. What they don’t do is tell us how to manage it all. It’s like a cocktail party where the volume increases as the night goes on until everyone’s yelling cancels each other out and you can’t hear anything over the raucous cacophony of noise.

My advice: Try to keep it simple. You really don’t need to be reached on every single social media platform 24/7/365. If you are a multibillion dollar international business-to-consumer organization, sure maybe it’s a great idea, but if you are a small-to-medium sized business, it just doesn’t make sense. Pick your battles (or platform). Focus on only a couple of social media sites that are easy and comfortable for you to work with and make sense to your client base.

Last year, TechCrunch posted an interesting analysis regarding social sharing on the web. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter combined for 73% of all the traffic. Many of the smaller social media sites were outstripped by the emailing of information and good old fashioned print button (just don’t tell the office supply gatekeeper). So, in reality if you aren’t monitoring, Digg and MySpace, how much revenue are you going to leave on the table?

Yahoo just released a study that related how nearly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K users. Part of that mix is bloggers talking about people’s blogs. You’ve got a better chance of getting picked up by that crew, than becoming the next Digg star. With Facebook, 51% of the American population over the age of 12 has an account. As an organization, I’d hazard a guess if you focus on them you’ll generate a lot more traffic than playing fifty-two card pickup with the plethora of social media sharing sites out there.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought. You know the people that get to the front of the line at Starbucks and still don’t know what they want to order? Imagine those folks trying to decide where to share your article. *Shudder* Too much choice can be absolutely paralyzing. So start small, focus on a couple of sites and most likely you’ll get better feedback than spreading yourself too thin.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make sure you ignore the “share all” option below and just focus on the Twitter and Facebook icons. Nothing to see here people, nothing to see.


Have Your People Tweet My People

Monday, March 14th, 2011

There are four tips to leveraging Twitter in a B2B context. There are seven strategies to being successful, ten “musts” for every online organization, twenty suggestions for getting more Twitter followers, and forty ways to use social CRM for selling. My head spins three hundred times whenever I try to wrap myself around all the advice floating around the interwebs about how to be a company and use social media to find other companies to expand our business. Of course we have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a YouTube account, and now a Twitter account to reach out and explore every pocket of the internet.

Having a Lorton Data Twitter account inherently makes us hip, trendy and exciting right? We have our festive logo as the avatar and a groovy water droplet themed background that metaphorically represents our A-Qua Mailer offering. We’ve even tweeted already, providing some useful information, a couple of links and a joke about a 1:45 AM fire alarm at MAILCOM (with a hashtag!). All we need to do is turn all of our personal brands into a collective corporate brand, then just sit back, put our organizational feet up and watch the followers roll in. It sounds so easy.

Or maybe not.

Lorton Data operates in a business to business environment, and unless your Great Aunt really needs the addresses for this year’s Christmas cards cleaned up, your average Twitter user probably isn’t going to be inherently interested in what we have to say. It’s the honest truth. While we provide database hygiene services to organizations as large as major governmental bodies, to as small as the neighborhood church around the corner, it’s hard to market our business outside of the traditional direct mail context. We think Twitter could be a good avenue to spread the word about Lorton Data while also providing additional information to help our customers.

Much like all the hundreds of thousand voices out there talking about social media in a B2B context, we haven’t figured out our game plan yet. We actually haven’t even really started. There are tons of tips, suggestions, ideas, beliefs, blades of grass tossed into the wind and shaken magic eight balls, but many of them contradict each other or seem to suggest those ideas only work in one specific context.

So we might just have to wing it a little bit.

According to a statistic I just made up, 99% of all articles about social media explain that there is nothing more important than generating interesting content. And yes, I completely agree. I’ve been using Twitter personally for a little over a year now and have come to realize that nothing is more important than original content. It’s more than blindly retweeting the latest iPad analysis from Mashable, but it’s less than sharing every single thought that passes through our organization. We need to engage our audience with @ replies and discussions, (it’s social media after all) but I don’t even think we honestly can project who our audience will be yet. My user experience on Twitter as an individual (or more silly as a Personal Brand) will be markedly different from my projected experience on Twitter as Lorton Data employee. By understanding that out of the gate, our organization should be able to set different expectations and understandings of how to engage with Twitter as an organization of multiple voices working together to communicate with the world at large.

As someone has probably already said, “you can lead a customer to Twitter, but you can’t make them tweet.” Or follow, or something like that.

So, we are interested in hearing what people are looking for from Twitter in a B2B business context. What will have you interested in hearing from us? Of course you can reply on our Facebook page, follow us on twitter or comment on the blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this blog reviewed and posted so I can link to it on Twitter.


Patio Season

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

As the temperature hovers around 50 degrees on this mid-February day, my thoughts drift to the summer: sitting outside, swatting mosquitoes and swapping stories with friends over a cold frosty beverage. I’m not the only one; just yesterday local Minnesota Brewery @Summitbeer tweeted, “The urge to drink a beer on a patio today is very strong in this one.” It’s ingrained in the Upper Midwest attitude, and many histories of the region discuss the fancy beer gardens built by breweries before prohibition.

The Twin Cities based Surly Brewing Company wants to continue the tradition of Midwestern beer gardens as part of a plan to build a new $20 million brewery. According to a recent article on Minnesota Public Radio’s website the company proposes a “60,000 square-foot brewery and restaurant with a beer garden, roof deck and bar.” The facility expects to create 150 new permanent jobs.

A beer garden, roof deck and bar sound like an absolutely fantastic way to spend the six evenings in the Twin Cities where snow isn’t either falling or melting.

There is only one hitch in Surly’s master plan. It is currently against the law for a brewer who brews more than 3,500 barrels of beer to sell alcohol directly to the public. In other words, Surly can certainly open a restaurant, but they can’t serve any beer at the restaurant. I had my brilliant lawyer wife read through the legalese and essentially the law states that if you have a license to manufacture “intoxicating liquors” you can’t also have a retail license to sell the liquor.

In other words, Surly Brewing Company needs the law to be changed to move forward with their plans.

To do this, not only have they appeared in traditional media outlets like the local news papers and radio but they reached out to their dedicated following on Twitter, Facebook and their own corporate blog.

They’ve shared with over 19,000 Facebook friends articles on the issue at hand, and asked for feedback on what their State Representatives have said about emails to change the law. Surly has done the same with their 8000 followers on Twitter. Finally on their Brewer’s Blog two days ago, they posted extensive information on the question posed to the legislature and how people can help.

Surly is a small organization, and makes fantastic beer, but no one is going to call them a titan of the brewing industry. However, the company has been very active on various social media platforms and their calls to action seem to have been heard. In less than an hour on Facebook, 46 people had already replied about communicating with their legislators and are sharing their experiences about lobbying to get the law changed.

We don’t yet know if Surly will be able to successfully leverage social media to help get the laws changed, but I wouldn’t bet against them. They make an excellent product (which I’ve tested enough to appoint myself as unofficial quality control) and they have a very dedicated following. While I can’t speak for my organization, I don’t really see anything negative with this plan. New jobs, a beautiful proposed destination, and another exciting place for Minnesotans to go and enjoy delicious Surly beer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head off to my secret basement laboratory to make my special DEET and sunscreen concoction for summer patio season.


Etiquette Please. Thank You.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

In an informal study by the University of Making Stuff Up, 95% of all Twitter users have a first tweet along the lines of “*Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on?” or “Still figuring this Twitter thing out.”

Still figuring this Twitter thing out… I’m pretty sure even the most successful social media folks will tell you they haven’t figured Twitter out completely, and if they propose that they have, they might just be selling you some snake oil.

Recently I’ve highlighted some successful uses of social media with Twitter and Tumblr, but today I want to talk about one of the pitfalls of not understanding the social media platform being used, and how simple things can have serious ramifications.

I was followed recently by a large non-profit after a tweet regarding their cause. I looked at their timeline and made the decision to follow back. I figured that with their small number of tweets, it wouldn’t introduce too much noise into what I am looking for from Twitter, and I could also help show my support. A few hours later, I received a direct message that said “Thanks for following, please friend us on Facebook.”

There are a couple of problems here. First, you should not send automated direct messages thanking people for following you. It’s considered inappropriate for personal Twitter accounts, and especially for corporate accounts. This has been true for several years now. With your corporate account, it proposes the idea that instead of just sending us news via your Twitter feed, you’ll also directly message us individually anytime you want to advertise something. Not that you necessarily will, but it illustrates that you don’t respect the direct messaging functionality of Twitter. On a side note, many people get notifications whenever they get a direct message. So if you send me a note, not only do I get the message but an email as well. In other words, you better have a good reason for making the red light on my Blackberry go off. Sending me a direct message thanking me for following you isn’t it.

The second problem with this message is that the non-profit was directing me to their Facebook account. I wasn’t sitting on my couch thinking, “you know Joel, you are following them on Twitter but maybe that isn’t enough. If only they had a Facebook account and maybe LinkedIn as well, then I could be assured of getting each message from the organization THREE different times. Then, and only then, would my life be complete.” If I wanted to follow this organization on Facebook I would have signed up on Facebook.

You need to be willing to engage your customers, or donors in this case, on the social-media platform they want to interact with you on. If your Twitter strategy is to try and direct your followers to Facebook, I’d suggest just having a Facebook account and deleting the Twitter account entirely. I have too many Facebook friends and I probably login every other day, but honestly Twitter is my social media application of choice. If you want to get your message to me, you need to be able to do it on Twitter. For others it might be Facebook, or even MySpace, but be prepared to meet people on their home turf. This would be similar to sending a direct mail piece asking people to listen to your radio advertisement. Just because it’s free to push your content on social media doesn’t mean you should abandon the most basic marketing fundamentals.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to clean my Gmail account of the “thanks for following” emails.


Pink Bathrooms Unite!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

My Pink Bathroom

Thanks to social media, I took two hours of vacation last Monday to scour my shower to a glistening shine. I went inch by inch with a toothbrush and despite what my dentist would say; I did draw the line at flossing. What does my obsessive cleaning of the bathroom have to do with social media? And why were there a bunch of people hanging out in my sparkling bathroom? While it is a somewhat convoluted story, it serves to show how social media allows you to make interesting and unique connections no matter how esoteric your interests.

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I purchased a mid-century home with an original pink bathroom – the type of bathroom inspired by Mamie Eisenhower and apparently beloved by many people (please forgive the author for knowing very little about bathroom styles). At the time we purchased the home, my wife posted quite a few photos on Flickr, including one excited reference to “Our Pink Bathroom!” That caption led to her being contacted by the head of Save the Pink Bathrooms, a group she later joined on Flickr. From there, she learned about Retro Renovation, a sister site to SPB, which she friended on Facebook. When Retro Renovation put out a call for pink bathrooms in the Twin Cities metro area, my wife emailed them. A little while later, we had a writer and photographer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, as well as my wife and I, crammed into our tiny pink bathroom for a thirty-minute photo shoot.

If that story wasn’t enough to tire me out, the alchemy of cleaning supplies created a dangerous haze that I was probably warned about in the film strips of my youth. So even a week later, I might just be a touch light-headed.

What’s really interesting with this story is how social media helps you make connections—often more quickly than traditional means of communication—and those connections allow you to network in ways that may have been previously prohibitive. Just five years ago, it would have been a far greater challenge to find enough bathrooms to write a lifestyle section article on something that’s retro cool. With one picture on Flickr, a whole set of dominos fell into place, leading to a metro newspaper hanging out in my bathroom for an evening. There are a myriad of inventive ways to grow participation within your group or businesses using social media. Sometimes you can even be creative enough to get someone to clean their bathroom. And if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is. Actually, that my wife and I could become “retro cool” and hip without doing anything is much better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go sit on the couch and wait until my flannel shirts and grunge aesthetic are in fashion again.