In 2001 there were 128,374,512 mobile subscribers in the United States. That number tripled in 2010 to 300,520,098. So with that being said, I would have been pretty hyped about Google Glass back in the day. But today, in the age of disposable technology, and upgraded contracts, I can’t help but think a “…$1500 voice-activated face camera” (thank you Olivier Blanchard) is about as senseless a purchase as Princess Bear Beanie Babies.
Fear not though – the future of Google Glass is about the application of the product. Wearable tech just hasn’t caught on (sans BT headsets which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly the pinnacle of fashion statements.) though I get the strategy. Just read Gladwell’s Tipping Point to understand it.
In my opinion this is one simple baby step in the evolution of something much bigger both in design and purpose. Like Microsoft using its XBOX to debut Kinect, at some point they lost control of the brand (but in a positive way) – one just has to look at sites like Kinect Hacks to really understand how this platform will grow over time.
What becomes of Glass, only Google knows but understand that my criticism is probably more short than long term.
I can’t sleep.
Last week I sat in front of my Macbook with my finger dragging back and forth on my touchpad, the arrow dancing atop the “save changes” button in my Twitter settings. The agonizing debate was whether or not to take my tweets private. This typically should not have been a torturous exercise; it’s in our right as users of social media services to create the façade that not everything has to be in the public eye, right? (Side note: sorry for the snarkiness, but I’m still recovering from BJ Mendelson’s book!)
I struggled to click because my pending decision came at a cost: By going private, I was to lose my “Verified Account” status. Getting your account verified on Twitter was their way of tramp-stamping you with a big ol’ authenticity tattoo. It was like Twitter saying, “Yes, that really is Miley Cyrus tweeting about her dogs!” You know, if the 11 million followers didn’t give her away…
Well early last year while working with Scott, I had a direct line into Twitter. It’s a long story, includes a previous life of negotiating Firehose Data, and all this stuff I really shouldn’t get into. But nonetheless I had strong connections inside the house of tweets. We, being Scott and I, recognized that there was no way possible 200 million people knew we existed. So we kindly asked, as representatives of Ford Motor Company that we have our accounts verified.
And Twitter complied!
It helped immediately. From times of crisis, such as when we had to correct concerned followers of presumed positions our employer held on a myriad of controversial topics in the media, to general customer service inquiries, by Twitter recognizing us as representatives of our employer, and subsequently authoritative voices, many of the issues we tackled were mitigated more quickly. This is purely anecdotal but after one such customer and I had a post resolution discussion, he outright said “I knew you could make things better for me based on your account status.”
Ahh there’s that word, status.
At the crux of my issues with my PII in the public data stream, I began to fear that maybe I was too public. Admittedly, the psychology of being granted a Verified Account came with a slight ego. You couldn’t help but realize your follower count was rising by the hundreds every week. Did it matter? No, not really. What really helped me make the decision though was data itself. Based on a GigaOM infographic, it became apparent that the Twitter universe that I cared to reach was significantly smaller than the mass it had become. Did you know that nearly 70% of Twitter accounts are outside the United States? Or that 75% of all content you read on Twitter is composed by only 5% of its users? Puts things in perspective pretty quickly, doesn’t it? It didn’t diminish the original impetus for seeking Verified status, but it did make my decision easier in terms of who I wanted to speak to.
Look, at the end of the day, I love my job. I like social media, the automotive industry, Detroit, and all things in between. But I also like NBA games, punk bands Face to Face and Jawbreaker, in addition to being ridiculously sarcastic. None of which, in my opinion, I could share my enthusiasm for as a corporate ambassador of my brand. Maybe the solution is to simply create another account – @craigatford for instance. But I look at duplicate accounts like social media schizophrenia: it simply isn’t healthy. Does this mean I’m no longer an ambassador of the brand that employs me? Absolutely not. What it does is ensure that those who follow me are validated by me, that’s all.
Since “pushing the button” and losing the Verified Account status, my follower account has diminished by about 100 this week. I expect to lose more, and that’s okay. The race to the bottom is more about ensuring my audience is interested in what I have to say verses simply following a blue checkmark. So who cares if I lose out on some AXE Body Spray Klout Perk? The opportunity to determine who verses what (bot or other) follows me is empowerment anyone with a Twitter account can enjoy. So hey, send me a request at @craigdaitch and maybe I’ll let you follow my rants on Andre Drummond’s playing time. If you want maybe you’ll allow me to do the same.
Comedian and author Brandon Mendelson carries the burden of 762,697 followers on Twitter like that of a tortured artist. As he mentions countless times in his book, back in the day of Twitter’s suggested followers page, Mendelson had the chutzpah to ask Twitter to support his cause against cancer as a fledgling social media user and as such, Twitter bequeathed Brandon the gift of exposure, handing him the equivalent of a perpetual Yahoo home page ad , rocketing him to bot notoriety in the process.
His platform of social media relevance secured, Brandon set out to burst the social media balloon in his aptly titled book “Social Media Is Bullshit” through dispelling the urban mysteries behind such cultural phenomenons such as Twitter’s rise to relevance via SXSW, or Justin Bieber being a legitimate internet discovery. Taking an acidic tone through 80% of his prose, Mendelson pulls absolutely no punches in his quest to make certain the reader understands that the very fabric of what makes social media so enticing to marketers – especially those who own small and medium size businesses – is both a fountain and tomb. That the ROI one may see from a Fortune 50 through social media endeavors more than likely has other aspects of media incorporated into a singular campaign, such as paid media to help amplify performance.
While Mendelson could have come off sounding like Phil Mushnick at a Vince McMahon charity event, I actually felt an underlying layer of sincerity in his desire to assure SMB’s avoid the pitfalls and traps set by the carpetbaggers (or Cyber Hipsters as he refers to them) of the industry.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Brandon wrote a book I’d recommend to everyone. While I selfishly enjoyed his overly-honest assessment of social media professionals (and their reactions on the Amazon review page), and I too have felt the sting of watching not just a campaign, but an entire start up endeavor sink to oblivion, I’m not certain I agree 100% with the message Social Media Is Bullshit offers. Mendelson essentially tells his readers to simply avoid social networking as part of a marketing plan. That Twitter seems “okay” but LinkedIn is a dead zone. Oh and don’t get him started on Facebook. Most importantly he wants you to believe that the big corporate social media accounts are not patterns mom and pops should follow.
The real message needs to be that if you’re a marketer, big or small, don’t put 100% of your eggs into earned media, which is something I’ve seen countless times. Diversify plans, and expect to heavy up investment into paid advertising. Learn to optimize your messaging – the copy you may use on a Facebook post could inspire the copy used via SEM.
What I hoped to read was that the days of your social media guru telling you that sharing is caring are over. $150.00 classes on Google+ for business are as good as equity in pets.com because the “awareness” chapter of social media has indeed closed.
Social Media should not be horded within a single entity. Nor would I look at Social Marketing as an avenue that can live autonomously from the larger marketing ecosystem.
I think Brandon would concur.
As a marketer, the concept of “Showrooming” makes me angry, but not for the reasons you imagine. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, let me shed some light on the term.
This has all the makings of a legitimate problem for retailers. IDC Retail insights estimates that 48 million U.S. shoppers will showroom items this holiday season, up from 20.5 million in 2011.
And there’s no greater posterchild for Showrooming than Best Buy.
MSN Money’s Jason Notte said it best in his article on Best Buy’s point of retail Showrooming inflection. “Showrooming says so much about where we’re at as a retail culture. Consumers haven’t grown so lazy that they’re completely unwilling to go to a store, but they’ve grown so accustomed to online pricing that they’re no longer willing to pay extra for store amenities like leases, lighting, security and a workforce full of not-so-knowledgeable folks in uniform. For Best Buy, it’s a conundrum that’s costing the company millions.”
In a year that saw Best Buy close stores and lose a CEO, the assessment seems accurate. The fact of the matter is, no price matching or fancy contextual bank card targeting may save them. They could just be delaying the same inevitable deaths that plagued CompUSA, Circuit City and others.
But is there a chance that attributing retail death to online shopping is a misnomer? Could Showrooming really be blown out of proportion? According to Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, that may just be the case. In a Business Insider article from this summer, Mulpuru said:
“Forrester’s forecast suggests that many consumers may in fact nonetheless choose to purchase products in stores because of the immediate availability of products, service levels associated with buying in stores, or because of the fact that the products online do not have significant benefit over those in stores. As long as pricing is generally comparable across channels, consumers are unlikely to switch to another retailer or channel.”
Hold the phone…consumers like…immediacy of product availability?! You don’t say! So what are big box retailers complaining about? Well let’s get back to Jason Notte’s assessment, namely a lack of real customer service with two personal examples of stellar brick and mortar retail.
A Tale of Two Retailers
Retailer 1: Best Buy
While this is purely anecdotal, it’s a shining example as to how big box retailers don’t get it. I recently needed to purchase a new Bluetooth headset. Armed with my iPhone and the Amazon shopper app, I scanned the few that I was considering and read through the reviews while on the showroom floor. Not once while I was in the aisle was I asked if I needed help by a retail associate, nor was there any real call-to-action to use BestBuy.com product reviews while in store. Instead I did my own due diligence and when I found what I was looking for, with a price within $5.00 of what I found on Amazon, I decided to spend the extra money and walk out with my new headset.
As I was checking out, the sales associate thanked me for my patronage (that was nice I thought!), and noticed I was paying with an Amazon credit card. She then surprised and delighted me by mentioning that Best Buy would match the price on Amazon! Score! I thought…and as I fired up my iPhone to tweet in line as to how awesome the retail experience was, she mumbles, “Oh wait, the headset doesn’t qualify for free shipping…sorry, we can’t match!”
WHISKEY TANGO FRED, LADY?!
Yep there you have it. They had me, and my social media reach, ready to reward them for rewarding me, and it was gone in a poof. I had every intention of cancelling the sale and letting her know I’d buy it on Amazon, but I gave in.
Retailer 2: Apple
I’m a self admitted Apple store hater. I get severely claustrophobic every time I walk into one. Yet the one thing I can never knock them on, is the fact that their store associates are there to greet you and find you help if you need it. The other day was no exception, when I walked in and asked for a VGA dongle for my Macbook Air. The store was, as always, jammed with people. Yet a sales team member walked with me to the obscure corner as to where it was (bottom shelf), grabbed one for me and asked if I needed anything else. When I said no, he whipped out his iPhone and offered to take my credit card right there. Looking at the mass of people at the Genius Bar, I happily nodded. Upon completion of the sale, he asked if I needed a bag (I did), which he conjured up from beneath one of the display tables and then offered to send me my receipt to my email which again I agreed and appreciated. All-in-all I was in and out faster than you could blink, I never did a product comparison and I was pleased with the customer service.
So brick and mortar retail isn’t dead, it just needs to be shaken up. We always talk about how the world can learn from Apple regarding design. Well it can learn a lot more when it comes to product knowledge and understanding of the purchase funnel. Retailers work incredibly hard to get me to their stores, why lose me when I’m ready to convert? By using a blend of people skills (product knowledge, acknowledging your customers) and technology (not waiting for a customer to walk 2000 feet to a check out lane and taking their order while they’re “in the moment”, retailers can mitigate the temptations of losing a sale to online competitors. By using social media through giving their customers something to talk about, they just may keep the sale going longer than a simple transaction.
I have an acquaintance who’s a CIO. Well by trade at least, as he’s currently unemployed. He’s bright, articulate and understands code. However as the world rapidly changed, he admittedly fell behind. As he told me the story over drinks the other night about the murmurs questioning his competence that turned into a steady rumbling, he ultimately found himself on the outside looking in when his more agile coworkers introduced his company to acronyms and terms of unfamiliarity.
“Why did I have to know what a tweet was?” He asked rhetorically.
Being informed by his employer they were going in a different direction, being rendered a commodity that simply wasn’t core to his company’s business, was a wake up call and in turn, a reinvention of his skill set of sorts. He buried himself into the new digital landscape, specifically social media – learning the platforms, the intricacies of how they worked symbiotically both internally and externally. He figured out the CMS players pretty quickly, grasped SEO and before he knew it, he had re-branded himself as a Social Media consultant. Yet he never considered himself as such.
Joking with him about his “reinvention” he turned his nose to the label. “I’m not a social media guru…I make business decisions.”
I admittedly wanted to remind him that he made business decisions since he was on the outside looking in on a job but I restrained myself. You see I was offended by his statement; I for one working in emerging channels for the majority of my career. But the more I thought about what he said and not how he said it, I realized he was kind of right.
Now before I continue I need to preface that this post is not an indictment on your company’s IT or Social Media Director. Nor am I attacking the social media profession. What I am doing though is questioning the lack of speed of which roles are evolving within corporate walls – that social media and those who steer its strategy within an organization are simply empowered to provide counsel but lack the responsibility to actually lead the business.
Conversely, twelve years ago technology spending outside of IT was 20% of total technology spending; it will become almost 90% by the end of the decade. You read that correctly: IT will lose 90% of IT spend according to Gartner. How does IT reinvent itself to stay relevant?
Social Media and the Accountability Debate
Nobody can question the value of social media. In fact Gartner predicts that in three years, 10 organizations will each spend more than $1 billion on social media. Yet the question persists, does a billion dollar spend rest in the hands of a non-executive?
“You absolutely need to have someone at the Senior Executive level who shepherds social media investments across the enterprise, who guides overall investment strategy, especially where capabilities must be shared across teams.” Said Accenture Global Technology Offering Development Lead for CRM/Social Media, and founder of Social Media Governance, Chris Boudreaux.
According to Boudreaux, “A Director level person in most cases hired into the organization, (1) has limited knowledge of the business, and (2) does not have the relationships to influence across an organization. Those two points are far more important than knowledge of social media.”
It goes without saying then that you are extremely unlikely to find anyone who has those two items AND understands social media deeply. But relax social media professionals, your Senior Executive’s role is not designed to cannibalize your skill-set. The Director-level leaders need to understand social deeply and take on initiatives funded through that Senior Executive. That way your Senior Executives can keep their directors accountable to the business.
Enter The Rise of the CDO
This is why you’re finding more restlessness in social media positions today than ever before. The social media leader is being exposed to new experiences first within corporations that impact consumer behavior on a daily basis beyond a single platform such as Facebook; all of this predicated on rapid changes in the digital ecosystem that occur faster than IT can keep up with. Rhys Grossman, Managing Director of executive staffing firm Russell Reynolds & Associates lists a number of contributing factors that include:
- In March 2011, Apple announced it had sold its 100 millionth iPhone. As of July 2011, Google’s Android Operating System was on 130 million devices.
- In July 2011, it was reported that the Apple Retail Store is handling 24 million app downloads per day, and the Android Market is handling 17 million app downloads a day.
- In April 2011, it was announced that more than 200 million people had signed up on Twitter, while, in September 2011, it was revealed that there were 100 million active monthly users.
- In 2010, global revenue for the virtual goods industry was over $7 billion, according to Ted Sorom, CEO of Risty, a virtual currency platform.
So while organizations myopically consider a single purpose for their Social Media Director, the truth is that their hands are touching multiple digital platforms.
Fortunately, organizations are paying attention. The advent of the creation of the Chief Digital Officer role as part of business unit leadership will become a new seat at the executive table. Gartner predicts that by 2015, 25% of organizations will have a Chief Digital Officer.
Furthermore, according to Grossman, a spike in demand for Chief Digital Officers has been felt globally. In Europe, the number of search requests for this role has risen by almost a third in the last 24 months. The United States has seen the same growth in half that time.
All of this is good news for those who come from a non-traditional discipline such as Social Media. The industry is evolving, however it requires industry players to evolve with it. That means a greater concentration on e-commerce and expertise pertaining to conversion/revenue. It means online marketing experience across all aspects of the purchase funnel. It requires an understanding of the venn that resides between the tangible and digital landscapes.
There will be a day when a digital CEO is given the reigns to an enterprise large enough to turn heads in the press and on Wall Street. That’s inevitable. The real race however is going to be based on who can evolve faster: your IT or Social Media leaders. Make no mistakes about it, bridging the gaps between business knowledge, and cross-functional influence will be requirements to survive the next wave of demands corporations will place on their employees. Never before has the phrase “Change or Die” ever been so salient.
My first lesson in word of mouth marketing took place more than a quarter century ago at a Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays game that my parents took my brothers and I to see. The seats in old Tigers Stadium weren’t the best – we were in the upper deck, but the experience was entertaining none-the-less. All because of an enterprising vendor hawking sodas. During intermittent pauses in the action, a booming voice could be heard addressing those within shouting distance:
ICE COLD COKE…BEEP! BEEP! BEEP
A few innings in and he had the entire upper deck joining him. A few innings after that? The entire stadium was in on it. It was like the audible wave, but with everyone staying in their seats. I think the guy sold a vending machine worth of cola products that day.
Fast forward to today and I found the following tweet being shared on Reddit:
Oh this will be fun… They just told me I'm banned from singing for the rest of the playoffs. Hmmm….—
Singing Hot Dog Man (@SinginHotDogMan) October 07, 2012
For those outside of the fine city of Detroit, Charley Marcuse, aka the Singing Hot Dog Man has a bit of a cult following. This isn’t by accident, because Charley has more entrepreneurial spirit in one finger nail than most have in their entire body. Here’s a guy who took a part time job slinging franks at a baseball game and turned it into a niche opportunity to build his brand. How far did he take it? He markets his own mustard!
So imagine his surprise when his supervisor told him to stop the singing or risk losing his job. Maybe if this happened 25 years ago, he would have been muted for good, but Charlie has purpose and the power of social media. The hashtag #letcharliesing may not have the weight behind it that other social protests have had in the past, but give it a day or two. This has all the elements of a meme waiting to happen. Deadspin? How could they not pick up on this? ESPN? Send out Kenny Mayne!
But here’s the question. Is Charley’s singing actually a benefit to his checking account? ESPN had an article a few years ago about the life of a stadium vendor. Most are on commission. With an average hot dog price of $4.75, and a commission of 16.5%, that means the take home is $.60 per frank. (NOTE: The hot dog math I’m about to subject you to should be taken with the tiniest grain of salt. I know statisticians, and I, my readers, am no statistician!)
Now, let’s say you can sell 200 hot dogs for every 9 innings played, that means 22 per inning. An average MLB game is 2 hours and 50 minutes (170 minutes). You’re hustling 22 dogs every 18 minutes. Charley takes 20 seconds off every time he bellows out his sales pitch. Again for hypothetical purposes, let’s say he’s going through his singing routine 6 times an inning. That’s shaving 1 minute 20 seconds per inning – or the equivalent of 1 dog per inning. Incrementally, we need to account for him having to make change, hand over the merchandise, etc.
Anyway sorry for the hot dog math but extrapolating the performance over 9 innings, Charley ends up losing a few hundred dollars (just under $500) at the end of each baseball season.
But is that just chump change? Should we chalk that up to investment in brand Charley? I mean the guy is selling products in specialty retailers due solely to his stadium schtick. How much would it typically cost an entrepreneur off the street to carve out an end cap, advertise, etc.?
Whatever does happen to Charley Marcuse, he should be commended for standing out in a sea of anonymous, Old English D baseball cap wearing faces for 81 games a year. When the Tigers do move on to the next round of the playoffs, I sincerely hope the issues his management have are resolved so we can #LetCharlieSing.
I guess I’m framing this more as a question than a thought.
I’m reading an article titled “Ethnographic Approaches to the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication“. Why am I subjecting myself to this on a holiday? Besides my growing curiosity of business anthropology, here’s what’s I think interesting: Think about just how different the world is today than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. Now take this quote from the introduction of the article into consideration:
“While there exists a huge body of research on the Internet and computer mediated communication (CMC), only some of this research is qualitative, and of this, an even smaller portion is ethnographic. With the exception of a relatively small group of ethnographers who focus research efforts on the
Internet, most ethnographers still conduct studies firmly situated in the “offline” social world.”
If you think of ethnography as a field of cultural interpretation built around qualitative research (and I fully admit I am not ethnographer so if quant and qual play in the same sandbox, just explain it to me), how truly little do we understand the attribution of minute by minute cultural shifts taking place and how digital communication is impacting them?
The article outlines three challenges in the abstract as to what makes offline/online ethnographic studies so difficult:
- Because online ethnographers are not physically co-present with their research subjects, they cannot use their interpersonal skills to access and interpret the social worlds they are studying.
- The process of gaining access to the setting and research subjects is different in online ethnography because of the lack of physical presence and the resulting anonymity provided by the medium.
- The blurring of public and private in the online world raises ethical issues around access to data and techniques for the protection of privacy and confidentiality.
I have thoughts on all three of those challenges but I’d be curious to hear from you first. How do ethnographers work within a digital world?