Things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving 2013 besides the obvious fact that I’m still breathing and walking around the planet:
- my super smart, supportive and beautiful gal for whom I moved back to NJ eight months ago and who still hasn’t thrown my ass out of the house
- the chance to celebrate this oh-so American holiday while back in this nutty homeland (although Switzerland will forever be in my heart)
- the fact that my mom’s eye operations went so fast and so well that I’m still blown away by recent progress made in cataract surgery
- the chance I have to be part of and observe a tech startup actually reach escape velocity as opposed to petering out
- the latest addition to my really tiny (but growing) watch collection because when you’re a watch nut well…there’s little hope for cure :)
- last but not least, I’m grateful for all our friends - both in the flesh and digital - who support and entertain us on a continuous basis - you know who you are.
Interesting article on LinkedIn this morning from Shane Snow about how Snapchat is “screwed”. I, for one, wouldn’t mind being “screwed” to the tune of “I don’t need your $3B so take a long walk off a short pier, Facebook” but that’s just me :)
All I know is my girlfriend’s twelve year old swears by the service. And he never goes on Facebook. To me, that pretty much seals the deal. What do I know?
You see many people make predictions or statements about what businesses are really “worth” - and I think “worth” is a very dangerous concept. In an open market economy, “worth” is nothing more than what people (and competitors) perceive you to be.
In closed, government-controlled markets, “worth” is what a bunch of bureaucrats need to say you’re worth in order to justify some policy or make people feel better about the economy.
In either case, “worth” is pure smoke and mirrors. Fantasy in one case, wishful thinking in the other.
Sometimes you hear people say, “Hey, they must be worth a lot otherwise, why would all these investors have poured money into them?” Or better yet, “They must be worth a lot or they wouldn’t have all these customers!”
Dubious on both counts. There are a lot of misguided or unlucky investors out there. And others just hedging bets. And there are a lot of customers who simply don’t have other choices at the moment. “At the moment” being the key phrase.
So net-net, you don’t really know if your business is “screwed” or what it’s “worth” until you eliminate debt completely, while making a profit. And until you’re going against tough, competent, competitors on a regular basis and beating them in the process. Oh, and generating repeat business via loyal customers too.
It’s kind of like what one of my ex-bosses did at Hublot, and Blancpain before that. But he’s an old-fashioned dude.
Until then, you may be “screwed” or you may be “worth” something. But it’s all speculation at best and the odds aren’t in your favor. The best strategy, as my sailor friend Max used to say, is to keep your eyes on the horizon, and the wind at your back. And not worry so much about being worth something or plain screwed.
I know it’s fashionable to be all googoo gaga over content these days. Matter of fact, there are content “experts” all over the place — from self-anointed gurus to specialized agencies and hosted software companies promising content nirvana to everyone from one-man shops to mammoth global brands.
I’m pretty sure there’s more content about content out there than actual compelling content. Blah.
Truth be told, a lot of progress has been made over the last few years in content understanding, production, and distribution. Most people - and companies - are still clueless, but many have started to “get it”.
That being said, I still disagree with those claiming that brands should now become “publishing houses” — that’s sheer nonsense. Just because Red Bull pulled it off doesn’t mean it’s either good or recommendable for everyone else.
There are brands and industries out there who really shouldn’t publish - or maybe just a little but barely. Here’s a couple examples:
1. Airlines - I couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass about what United, Swiss, Virgin, or Southwest publishes. Not one. Never read it. All I want from an airline are timeliness, flexibility, safety, and responsive customer service on Twitter. That’s it.
2. Restaurants and Hotels: I don’t care how your silverware or food looks on a photoshopped image or video clip. Couldn’t care less about what location this “amazing” shot is from. All I want from these places are quality, consistency, top rated mattresses, and prompt, knowledgeable service. Lots of service. Pictures and travel recommendations? No thanks - keep those to yourselves I get them from friends anyway.
3. Car Companies - well okay I do get off on Maserati content but I can’t afford one and if I could I’d still likely get a black BMW M5 anyway so, there’s not much a car company can possibly publish that would cause me to suddenly run to a dealership and sign on the dotted line. What _does_ influence me is how you treat me when I have to deal with your service department. Why do car companies need to “publish”? They’re either making a good, solid, reputable, sexy product - or they’re building crap. We all know who the usual category suspects are. No amount of sophisticated content will change that, will it?
4. Banks - Really? Banks? I bank with Chase and I love Chase. I would bank with CITI in a NY minute too if they were more convenient. I love Chase because their online access rocks and their customer service is - you guessed it - kickass on Twitter. Never seen a piece of content from either brand or any other that I could possibly care about. What I want from a bank is convenience, mobile, and ethics (yeah, I know…) - content? Couldn’t care less.
I can think of several other industries that probably really don’t need to publish stuff — publishing is supposed to drive engagement. Most companies “publish and run” anyway. So what’s the point? This whole content thing is really great. But not a panacea for everyone and his mother out there.
There’s been a lot of talk this last 2013 quarter about social service in terms of adoption (by brands) and share of the social pie. Marketing is still the undisputed winner as most budgets and efforts are clearly aligned along that function, and most social programs are run under Marketing departments.
Social Customer Care has certainly made some inroads but not significantly enough in my opinion. For the most part, brands are still throwing crap at people and hoping it sticks - and not engaging genuinely. And certainly not helping customers much - it’s all about “check out my pretty product” and not “how can we add value to your lives”. That’s a real shame.
For all that’s written on this topic, people fail to see the fundamental problem here: it’s all about respect.
When you push marketing gibberish onto customers without any expectations of engagement, you’re disrespecting your customers. Even if you’re spending tens of millions. You’re just saying to them “I don’t care, you don’t matter, you’re only good enough to absorb my wonderful expensively-produced content. Take that you moron!”
If you don’t do #socialservice, if you’re not helping customers - genuinely caring - then you’re not respecting. And if you’re not respecting, you’re not social. Period. No matter what department butters your bread.
There’s an expression in French called “usine à gaz” - which means “gas plant”. It’s commonly used in business to describe something designed in such an insanely complex way as to be completely useless. It describes grotesque over-engineering. And often applies to internal corporate processes, for example. We often see more gas plants than simple, efficient design in corporate social media strategies as well. Over-complication in social is often a symptom of either incompetence, uncertainty, or crippling bureaucracy - or all of the above.
Companies often use market or economic conditions to justify poor performance. But in fact the markets aren’t to blame. They’re just fluctuating wildly. The real fault lies in the companies’ inability to adapt fast enough. They cannot thrive in the new chaotic world order. They’re simply not designed to pivot and adapt fast enough. Herein lies the reason for their repeated failures and outright demise.
Social media accelerates this exponentially as large enterprises must now learn to listen and respond to millions of customers at scale in real time. And everyone’s talking about “real time Marketing” as a necessity nowadays.
Point being, large corporations aren’t used to this conversational exposure. The incessant ad-hoc 24/7 operating mode. They’ve been pitching at “markets” for decades - not managing millions of individual bi-directional conversations at once. So surviving now implies significant internal changes in process, segmentation, and infrastructure.
Past “division of labor” structures based on siloed divisions (Marketing, Support, PR, HR, Legal, Sales, etc) are inherently poisonous to social business where collaboration and integration are essential. Without the latter, efficiencies cannot scale. But can tooling actually drive internal change?
In many ways yes. Depending on how you think about it. Currently the corporate social tooling landscape is a mess of cobbled software bits and pieces strewn about. Often referred to as “Frankensteinization”. This status-quo engenders complexity.
The solution is to think infrastructure versus tooling. If you don’t “connect the dots” at the tech level, you won’t connect the dots at any other level - Marketing, Sales, Support - doesn’t matter.
This is in large part why CMOs and CIOs are becoming best buddies. And starting to collaborate in laying out social infrastructure pipeline throughout the organization. Unity and clarity make strength.
Problem is, there’s a lot of tools out there, but very few infrastructures. Disparate tools serving disconnected enterprise silos means growing complexity. So don’t waste time and money buying assortments of tools with bells and whistles. Instead, strategize on building infrastructure to deprecate silos and unify the business. Simple and integrated is the only way to move forward in any social market.
Working on the vendor side of social has broadened my perspective in the last months. Not just because I get to peek at what dozens of large global brands are doing with social. Not just because I get to see what it takes to implement enterprise social at truly massive scale. And not just because I get to hear about what works and what doesn’t with social relationship software - as we call it now - in the real world.
All these things are clearly insightful, but sometimes social inspiration comes the most unlikely of places. Case in point, this article. This company was recently acquired by Google - which makes sense as Bump is as “googlish” as an app can get. Namely, it’s stupid-simple and just works. Kind of like gmail.
As Bump’s creator says:
"I don’t have to think about anything, I just bump the phones together and it works—that’s what’s allowed Bump to get so big. It’s just dead simple. I don’t want to think about how it’s working. I just want it to do what I want.
That’s right. You don’t want to think about how it’s working. Which brings me back to social media management software and the question: why are so many of these things so hard to configure and use?
I know - enterprise software. It’s supposed to be rocket science. But really?
One day I’m hoping we’ll see social relationship management software you can “setup” and use just like Gmail. Or any email software for that matter — without much prior though - just bring it up, tell it a little bit about yourself, ask a few questions, and click away. For example:
"I’m a Marketing manager in retail. Tell me where customers are located who are most likely to adopt a new product we’re releasing."
"I’m a customer care agent in New York City for a tech company. Tell me what boroughs are experiencing the most problems with product A".
"I’m a content specialist in a bank. Where should I target my brand videos to generate the most amplification and where am I likely to find the best UGC for my brand?"
"I’m a social media director. What reports should I be generating to show my C-level management?"
"I work for PR in the hotel industry. Monitor any signs of impending crisis and alert me on mobile as needed."
These are the only kinds of questions/directives anyone should have to ask of social media management software. At least the kind of software I believe we might just be seeing in the near future.
I envision users being able to just start social request “streams” - and getting results or answers back in real time. And the software understanding how to instantly configure itself to best answer any query. Seamlessly.
Ah, the illusion of simplicity…Priceless.