Each Friday I showcase a startup that has really caught my eye. Each startup I review will always possess one of the following characteristics:
A category innovator (reinventing a space.. think Flipboard)
First to market (carving out a new space.. think Twitter)
A category leader (winning the battle.. think Foursquare)
Just downright f’in awesome (think about awesome shit.. like donkeys sporting unicorns)
I’m back at featuring posts for #StunningStartupFriday! Hooray!
Sorry, I’ve been busy. Mainly thrift store shopping, and dress last week I bought a bow tie for my dog Baxter. Baxter.. you’re so hot right now, so hot.
I want to talk about a startup that is helping define and invigorate a category that is usually exhausting to talk about, education. When you think about online learning, lots of unpleasant thoughts come to mind; late nights, boring topics, uninspiring teachers, and.. those damn tuition costs.
But, Skillshare changes all of that. Now, its all happy thoughts.
Skillshare coins itself as project-based classes that equip you with real world skills you can put to use right away. I have to concur. This is an online community of people passionate about specific subject matters, teaching people passionate about learning them.
Users of the online, community platform can search for classes taught online, or in their respective areas, and sign-up for a small fee. Even better (yes, better than low costs) is the wide-range of topics. Anyone passionate about polishing their skills, can sift through classes that vary from learning HTML & CSS to making the perfect meatball. If you’re anything like me, the world is an open book, and I’m a sponge. So jumping from topic to topic keeps me entertained.
Signing up for classes is a seamless and easy process. Then find the classes you would like to enroll in, and add it to your curriculum. Some classes maintain daily or weekly schedules, usually meeting twice a week. However, all material is usually posted to a YouTube channel and/or able to be downloaded.
Other classes you enroll in “unlock curriculum.” This enables you to learn at your own pace. Very helpful for people in certain industries that keep crazy schedules. Like… advertising… STOP WITH THE MEETINGS!
Once you become comfortable and familiar with Skillshare, you can also enroll to teach classes you are passionate about. There is a small list of requirements, but Skillshare does a great job making sure you are prepared and ready to take on a large class of interested brains successful.
I love Skillshare and wish them success and continued growth. But, in general, the idea of online learning is something that is important to our world and certainly a new, booming category. The paradigm shift will change the way we think about learning, and suddenly empower and enable us all to learn about interests.. on our own terms.
For more information about Skillshare, check out the video below or visit them here: Skillshare Website.
My wife could not be more thrilled at the way her career path is unfolding in front of her. She has a great job at the St Louis Children’s Hospital, volunteering several times a week, and starting the graduate program for family counseling in the next couple of months.
But, most importantly, we have the health of our family and friends. Which is the best blessing of all.
So, why the disappointment?
Because, I failed to make enough time for myself.
We often get overwhelmed in the office or at home. A little homework, turns into a little more, and before you know it… you’ve lost touch with the interests that keep you satisfied and sharp. Our ability to think and create on our own terms is one of the most special (and often neglected) gifts we possess.
I’ve failed to take better advantage… of me.
Maximize your Potential
Finding time for yourself, both at home and at work is not only essential for the brain, but it will maximize what you can create. And in the industry of advertising, creation is key(I suppose…).
But, don’t be ashamed… CHAMPION THIS THOUGHT! In fact, tell your peers that you are using a scientifically-proven method to increase productivity and the quality of your work. Do so with pride, as you would be accurate…
A Daydreaming Experiment
Don’t Believe Me? In November of 2010, subjects were randomly assigned to one of four different conditions. In three of those conditions, participants were given a twelve-minute break that entailed either: resting in a quiet room, performing a difficult short-term memory task, or doing something so boring that it would elicit mind-wandering. In a final control condition, participants were given no break at all. Finally, all subjects were given another round of creative tests, including the unusual-use tasks they had worked on only a few minutes before. The results were interesting:
Students assigned to the boring task performed far better when asked to come up with additional uses for everyday items to which they had already been exposed. Given new items, all the groups did the same. Given repeated items, the daydreamers came up with forty-one per cent more possibilities than students in the other conditions.
What does this mean? Scientists argue that it’s clear evidence that those twelve minutes of daydreaming allowed the subjects to invent additional possibilities.
In light of this, I’m going to challenge myself to step away throughout the day and daydream or invent something new, without the feeling of guilt. I owe it to my agency. I owe it to myself.
Let’s Chat Tomorrow
In an exercise of brevity, this is a great place for me to bounce. But, I’m coming back tomorrow with some additional examples of why we should reserve more time for ourselves. Until then, make it a point to find a little time today to dream and be yourself. Don’t Screw with Science my friends.
Happy holidays interwebs. I hope your year has been filled with health and joy. It’s nice to be with family and friends, in somewhat good spirits, for the close of every year. I really look forward to forgetting it all for a while and just being together, in peace.
Of course, before all of that can happen, most of us partake in one of the absolutely worst parts. The storm before the calm. Yes, I’m talking about buying gifts. People are insane. Packed into street-side buildings and mulling over the task of crossing each person off their list. Yep, Christmas shopping is my equivalent to SOCOM 3, the longer I participate, the worse it gets.
A few days ago I was in Barnes & Noble looking for a few good books for my wife and mother. Our reading preferences have nothing in common. I will really only touch non-fictional, motivational, business-related, bla, bla. They like that romantic fluffy stuff. And since I am not the kind to ask for suggestions ahead of time, I was completely lost. About 5 minutes later a store associate offered assistance to me in quite an instinctive way;
It looks like you’re buying books for your wife and may be a bit lost with ideas (little chuckle here). Would you like some help?
My thoughts: Wow, yes that is exactly what I am doing.. clever lady. And yes, I am a wee bit lost. Okay, I’ll play her little game. She went on to ask;
I’ve noticed you looking at several Harlan Coben books. Does she enjoy this author?
I was, in fact, in a section looking through several Harlan Coben books. I knew that my wife enjoyed his books, but I was afraid she had already read them all! However, knowing absolutely nothing about Harlan Coben, as an author, I had no idea where to go from here.
Let me show you some books she would really enjoy.
Adaptive, not Responsive
While the above may not be the ideal paragon for this post, it serves as an IRL example of why adaptive services are much more intuitive. So get off my back, yo.
Referencing the above B&N example, a store associate acting responsively in assistance would wait for my input, or ask for input upfront. For example, a responsive associate would sound something like this (and I know you have heard this a million times);
Do you need help with something?
In this case, an associate has gathered my wondrously pacing around aisles within the store as input. I am lost. It is very basic, and requires me to respond with detail (or attributes/values for you techies) before she could realize (compute) an answer.
However, the associate at Barnes & Noble reacted adaptively. She was aware I was looking through Harlan Coben books. She understands the type of audience Harlan Coben usually appeals to. She noticed the business books in my hand. At this time, she probably saw my ring and understood I was married (sorry ladies), and most of all, was also quite aware I was somewhat lost in decision based on my actions and demeanor.
This associate took this information, that was already freely available to her, ciphered it, and used it to assist me in a more efficient and effective manner. That, my friends, is adaptive thinking.
That, my interweb companions, is the way of the technological future.
My problem with Responsive Design
2012 was the year of the “responsive design” for me. It was a hot buzz word that all of my designer friends and thought-leaders would speak about. How to create the perfect, responsive design. Site content catered to you on any device across screens.
And, while I am certainly an advocate of responsive design and what is stands for, there is simply more to the game than that. We are smarter creatures, quite capable of thinking beyond “this needs to work on all screens,” to a place in thought centered around “how will this product/service adapt to its surrounding?”
Let me reemphasize this point. Responsive design (which, again, I don’t see nearly enough.. seriously, stop designing mobile-only sites people) is merely a function, a subset, of a much larger problem – identifying case uses based on individual session levels. Our technology needs to adapt to individual users based on information and behavior acquired about its user(s), the context of use and its environment.
Not the best example, but one of the first, would be the development of Google Maps. Google understand that, by using the GPS technology within your smartphone, it could (somewhat) accurately place your location within the application. In the old days, we would need to input a street address and a destination to understand how to travel from point A to B. But, by using technology to adapt to its surroundings, Google Maps became a more efficient service and provided more value to users.
A better example of how far adaptive technology has come, would be the revolutionary creation of Nest. To borrow from Avi Itzkovitch‘s article, Nest, “The Learning Thermostat”, is a great example of an adaptive system integrated to home environments. Using a variety of sensors for temperature, humidity, touch, near-field activity, far-field activity and even ambient light, it can detect whether there are people home and how active the home is at any time. By adjusting the temperature to adapt to this information, it can automatically cut up to 20% off a home’s heating and cooling bills.
Where I will travel from here…
This post is getting quite lengthy, and we have lots to do before Santa comes. Therefore, in my next blog post (sometime next week), I will feature a few of my favorite adaptive designs and applications, and expand upon its importance and possibilities more. So much is left.. unsaid.
Until then, Happy Holidays. Enjoy your much-needed break with the ones you love, and of course, your favorite spirits.
In the meantime, if this post has piqued your interest, here is some continued reading to entertain your mind:
Each Friday I’m going to showcase a startup that has really caught my eye. There’s no doubt, in this mad dash SaaS world, we are cluttered with new startups in every direction we glance. Which… isn’t a bad thing. But, it is definitely hard to break through and find new, clever, or innovative ideas that really help your life. Therefore, the startups I review will always possess one of the following characteristics:
A category innovator (reinventing a space.. think Flipboard)
First to market (carving out a new space.. think Twitter)
A category leader (winning the battle.. think Foursquare)
Just downright f’in awesome (think about awesome shit.. like skiing squirrels)
This week I’m pretty excited I found a new product that fits into two categories. It is both a category innovator, and just downright f’in awesome. High five Vizify.
Vizify is a product for something I believe is changing rather quickly right before our eyes.. the traditional resume or personal bio. I haven’t understood why it has taken so long to link our online identities into one simple personal/business card. Currently, those who are tech or socially savvy are already feeding fragments of their identity out to online platforms. Our employment histories and professional accomplishments are listed on LinkedIn. We store interests and social networks within the Facebook ecosystem. Even furthermore, we actively send out microbits of content in 140 characters or less, filter and upload photography that words can not accurately express, and checkin to locations and activities along our daily paths.
Give me a name and about 30 minutes and I could probably paint a fairly accurate persona of just about anyone somewhat digitally-linked (and in our industry, you better be somewhat digitally-linked).
About the startup
Vizify, pegs their product as a personal website powered by your data. By linking your social and interest graphs, Vizify automatically creates a stunning interactive infographic of your history, some pictures, and other important details in your life.
Then, Vizify sends you a custom URL you can use to share on your networks, print on business cards, or add to your email signatures.
Through the Vizify URL, you can view job history (fed through LinkedIn & Facebook), locations (fed through Facebook), photos (through Pinterest), most popular places (through foursquare), even a section called “words”, which is an algorithm Vizify is using to categorize your tweets on the tweeter.
In all, Vizify has 10 pages/sections of content it pulls in about you and turns into an infographic. Additionally, the colors and layout of content is easily editable. Oh, and it also (this totally makes me geek-happy) is coded in a responsive design. So the content is easily visible via desktop, tablet, or mobile.
Although, at face value, this platform may not seem like anything earth-shattering or terribly innovative, I really feel as though services like this are the way of the future. When meeting someone professionally, or hiring for a vacant position within your company, sites like Vizify will offer a great “hub” to get an easily digestible overview of an individual and provide a jumping off point (account speak) for diving in deeper. And, from what I’ve seen, Vizify is both one of the first to market, and best to market, within this newly created social-platform-linking, infographic-creating,personal bio site. I like to think of it as an About.me on steroids.
Holy crap, I’ve been gone too long. It has been over a month since I last posted. So, for the handful of people who give a shit, I so sorry. Kitten face…
Seriously though, here’s what happened in the past month:
Traveled to the Dominican Republic
Accepted a new job
Moved to STL
Started said job
Took out the trash
Gained 500 points on Turntable.fm
So get off my back. I’m a busy man yo.
I’ve got some Good stuff for you Tonight
Digital organization is sort of my pet peeve. This is why I carry a digital device everywhere I go. For someone as ADD, scattered, and sloppy as me, without digital organization I’m convinced I would manage to get absolutely nothing accomplished.
I’m not sure if this is a “me” thing, but I take organization to the extreme. ”How far” you say? I plan out my day after my day. That’s right, I like to have tasks and calendar invites for what I’m going to do when I end my workday. This may seem a bit overboard, but I have an awful lot I’m trying to accomplish this yearmonth today. Including:
Keeping up with HTML/CSS/programming trends
Learning EVERYTHING I can about the digital advertising industry
Expanding my guitar skills
Growing into a better chef at home
and keeping up with this damn blog
How to keep your Life Tasks organized
Those of you who read my last blog post about using Chrome tabs for productivity noticed that I’ve grown an affinity for Do.com. Tonight, I’m going to show you how you can perform a lifehack by using Do.com to manage daily tasks that automate in your Google Calendar.
As a reminder, Do.com (recently acquired by Salesforce) is a freemium project management app that is extremely easy-to-use. The platform enables you to manage your daily tasks, sorted by projects, with the ability to attach notes and files. You can even add 3rd parties to tasks and projects for quick collaboration efforts.
Setting up Do.com for your Daily Tasks
Step 1: After setting up your Do.com account, click on the projects link on the left. Then, go ahead and setup a project for each weekday (or complete week, whatever your personal organizational needs are). It is important to make a separate project for each individual day.
Step 2: Next, go into one of the projects and start assigning tasks. With each new task you create, give it a due date. This may go without stating, but to be extra obvious, make sure you assign each due date to the weekday each task was created within. (e.g., if I am in the Thursday project, ensure the due date falls on a Thursday)
*** Also, use times if you can or if it is appropriate for your task. I do this a lot if I have an online Skillshare course or important webinar I don’t want to miss!
Step 3: Now we’re going to create a one time link (or feed, if you will) within Do.com so it will automatically send our tasks to our Google Calendar. What good are tasks if you forget to stay on top of them?
Within a project, on the right side of your browser you will find a little icon that looks like a calendar. Go ahead and click on that and Do.com will serve up a pretty little feed link. Reach out, grab this little guy, and then navigate over to your Google Calendar (google.com/calendar).
The last part of the process is pretty simple. On the left side of your Google Calendar, and towards the bottom, you will see a title for “Other calendars” with a drop-down arrow. Click on that and select “Add by URL”. See that URL prompt that pops up? Guess what you put there? Then just hit “Add Calendar,” sit back, and watch. Ahh.. magic.
Rinse and repeat for each project/day within Do.com. You should end up with something like this:
This may seem like a bit much. But, after initial setup it is super easy to keep automated and organized. Will this help you at all? Am I just crazy? Let me know with a comment or tweet. Hope it helps.
No, this won’t be an article on Pinterest. For that, go here or here.
In this sense of the term, “pinning” is the function of locking in an open page tab as a fixture within your browser (hopefully Chrome my peeps). This is a “dork” blog, so I wanted to write about something extraordinarily dorky today.
First, for you non-pinners out there, let me shine some light on the reason for “pinning” tabs. As software shifts to the cloud and programs become SaaS (software as a service) models, most of the tools we use will become “always on” running within our browsers. In a lot of industries, or lines of work, there is a need to keep most of these SaaS-based programs open at one time. Yes, most of you probably even do this right now and don’t expect it. For example, Facebook would be one SaaS-like program always running in your browser. For some Facebook-attics, they like to keep Facebook as a fixture in their browser throughout the day. What they probably don’t think about, is that while the webpage is on, it is being used as an application, updating messages, newsfeeds, notifications, etc. Cool stuff, no?
The thought of “pinning” these types of applications provide several efficiencies. For one, they take up less visible tab space, usually just showing up as a small icon. This really helps with tab real estate. Second, these tabs stay to the left which helps with workflow. Everything on the left are “apps” if you will, and everything opening on the right are new web page sessions. Lastly, you can also preference within your browser that all “pinned” tabs automatically open with each new session. So, in the morning when you come in and boot up, once you click that browser, all applications open!
I am a tab nut. Those that have worked with me understand this. Additionally, there are several tabs I always keep “pinned” that are a staple to an efficient workflow. Let me list off the what’s & why’s:
7 Tabs you must Pin
I can’t imagine why someone would be using any web-based email application other than Gmail. But, apparently, it does exist (I’ve seen lots of email reports that have showed me… eek).
Nevertheless, Gmail is one of the best email tools, and it goes without saying, you should always have easy access to shooting off notes when working. Thus, enter Gmail.
Tweet, tweet, who got the keys to the Jeep? I just trademarked that, so back off.
Tweets offer instant updates on news, though-leadership, and provide inspiration in times of workers-block. Not to mention, tweets are sometimes the easiest ways to get feedback when you’re stuck, or mining answers when you have a query. Tweetdeck isn’t the most robust Twitter tool in the world, but it is both good-looking and FREE! Pin it baby.
Yes, instant messaging still exists. In fact, I find myself instant messaging more in 2012 than back in 2002 (even with the boom of smartphones).
However, IM’ing has fragmented itself with platforms like Google Talk, Facebook messaging, ICQ, and dare I say it… AOL (oh no he didn’t!).
Imo.im is a convenient web app that lets you connect ALL messaging platforms to one single login. You can even set up the notifications to shoot you a Growl on your Mac. How cool is that?!? Grrrrrrrrr.
Dude.. put the pen and paper down. It’s 2012, stop writing down your notes. That’s so 2010. Evernote is both ubiquitous and extremely easy.
Take notes on the fly, search previous notes, and even add snapshots and files to your notes!
This apps should always be open for those times of quick jotting or inspiration-seeking.
Did you know? Evernote even has text recognition! Have a messy white-board and don’t want to write everything down? No problem, snap a photo with your Evernote app and all that hand-written text becomes searchable! Woah… crazy, crazy! (for all you Matthew Berry lovers out there)
You gots to have a calendar playa. Additionally, you really need to keep a non work-related calendar for all that personal stuff. Softball @ 7, Dinner @ 8:30, Sweet Butterfly Kisses w/ my boo @10.
Why Google Calendar? Because it’s Google silly, recognize.
Not sure if you know this… but Buffer is kind of a big deal.
So you’re reading something worthy of sharing, or you think of something “tweet worthy” (something very Gagnam Style).
Don’t be that person that tweets.. back.. to back.. to back.
Everybody hates someone with ETWNOIL syndrome (Excessively Tweeting When No One Is Listening… of course).
Use Buffer to manage your tweets and automatically space them out to send when people are actually watching tweets across the wire. Additionally, get built in impression and click analytics to see which tweets are the most effective. BAM! You’re now a Tweeter-Star.
How do you stay organized when your day and schedule are hectic? You don’t. Not without an app like Do.com.
Do.com (recently acquired by Salesforce) is a freemium project management app that is extremely easy-to-use and useful. Manage your daily tasks, sorted by projects, with the ability to attach notes and files. You can even add 3rd parties to tasks and projects for quick collaboration efforts.
Yes, this means you can throw that Gantt chart away bro.
What? Bonus?! Sweet.
Don’t forget to groove while you move. Queue up Turntable.fm to pop in and out of rooms and spin a few beats. But, let me caution you, TT.fm can be a distraction as well. When you’re an oversized gorilla like me, there’s a price to pay for having mad beats.
On TT.fm? Friend me: Spindis
Did I miss something imperative? If so, sound off in the comments. What webapp must you have “pinned” at all times? Sorry, amihotornot.com will not be accepted.
Based upon its rapid loss of market share, I have to assume that Microsoft is fumbling around looking for something anything to differentiate their web browser, Internet Explorer. At times, I’m sure any Microsoft product that is able to attract organic press is a positive. After all, isn’t all PR, good PR?
Apparently, someone over in Redmond thought it would be a revolutionary differentiating idea to create the first browser in market with the trending browser feature “Do Not Track” set to default. In case any readers are unaware, “Do Not Track” is a recent addition to browser settings that disables the communication between websites and cookies that are used to store certain bits of information about you, and some of your preferences, on your computer. Without going into a deep dive regarding DNT, in a condensed explanation of intent, it has been implemented by every major browser (Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Opera) to protect themselves from privacy complaints handed down from the FTC.
Again, this is worthy of a blog post on its own. But, before I continue with my rant, I should probably provide a little context around why online consumers are tracked. I assure you, it wouldn’t be conducted unless it hard a purpose.
The term “cookies” has become a widely known term that most use freely, but have very little awareness to what it actually does. In a nutshell, a cookie is stored on your computer and contains little snippets of data (often just a user id) that can be accessed by web servers to improve your site experience (remember that site experience part, we will revisit that topic in a moment). It can also be used to create more customized advertising experiences. But, just like many other elements of this post (and most of my posts!), I will revisit this in some later blog writing.
That’s getting extremely technical, so let me get back to the point. There are two core reasons we are tracked:
Because this post is already getting lengthy, I’m only going to talk about the importance of “Site Experience” for now. Besides, that is the most obvious reason DNT is foolish, and the reasons that readers SHOULD get the most worked up.
Tracking for Site Experience
Before the advertising industry started to see the benefits of cookies, the development (and later UX) community started to tap into this technology to drastically improve site experience. Why? The most common issues with early web browsing was speed and repetitiveness. Even though the Internet was quite complex, websites were often very flat, tedious, and unable to learn and adapt dynamically. We are all creatures of habit online, and often visit the same sites daily. Therefore, shouldn’t these sites better adapt to understand who I am and what I need? Isn’t there a better way?
Fast forward to today.
One assumed universal truth is that we are all interested in the weather. Maybe we need to mow (this is on my mind right now), we have tickets to a baseball game, or are looking to get outside for a quick jog over lunch.
Weather.com originally had a very tedious process. Someone would visit the site, and before ANY information could be processed, location information had to be inputted. Every time you visited the site. The only way Weather.com could tell you the temperature around 5pm was by understanding your proximity. Therefore, this process became very redundant. Additionally, you may be interested in the weather at home, but you also keep an eye on the Friday/Saturday lake forecast on your weekender. This process is cumbersome and should be much easier. With the latest refresh of Weather.com, the site can now remember who you are and what areas are important for your visit. So, each time you visit the site, it identifies you, and dynamically changes your home page with the locations you are most interested in. MAGIC!
Let’s look at another example. If you are anything like me, you save up items in your shopping cart when visiting your favorite online merchants (mine is Amazon). Maybe you wait until the end of the week to get your total high enough for free shipping, or in some cases, it takes a week before the better half gives you approval for three pairs of new kicks, a couple albums, and a pair of stunna shades.
You may notice that when you place items in your cart, leave, and come back again later that day or the next, your items are often still there.. in your cart. AMAZING!
Again, this is the power of cookies. The site knows you are returning, and it can dynamically place those items back into your cart for checkout.
The last item I will hit on is not as consumer-facing, but it is just as important. Often, sites (especially large ones) use web analytics tools like Google Analytics, Core Metrics, Omniture, and Webtrends, to understand how users are engaging with their site content. The purpose of this is not always to be manipulative. This type of ongoing analyzation is very important, because they are learning what is best for online users based on behavior. All of this data is used to make site improvements that are imperative to bettering the consumer experience. And… cookies play a very critical role in this data collection process.
Are you starting to see my frustration with Microsoft?
No one within the digital space truly contests the importance of privacy. Everybody realizes that the Internet has evolved faster than policies, and that sensitive items, like personal data, must be policed. I assure you, everyone is onboard.
But, what Microsoft has completely ignored is that Do Not Track goes beyond just privacy, and alters important functions like improved site experiences. The average user is not aware of this, whatsoever. The average Internet user does not know what a cookie does (and I don’t blame them, why should you?!?). The great minds within the digital world must work together to ensure people are both protected, yet have seamless experiences. However, Microsoft has implemented something without any context, examination, or regard to what exactly a “Do Not Track” would mean for the online world.
Will users no longer be able to have websites remember preferences? Will it be all sites, or just some? Can they override only certain sites? Can they exclude third-party tracking but allow first-party?
The point of the story is, in typical Microsoft fashion, is that they obviously didn’t give the implications enough thought. Or, even worse, they simply do not care. For years and years, Microsoft only thought about themselves and capitalization, instead of their customers. Then, they began to bleed market share just about everywhere.
At the end of the day, I fear this is nothing more than a marketing tactic for Microsoft to build buzz and regain the market share it rightfully lost. Maybe, now, they have a new strategy. Let’s give the consumers what they want, even if they do not realize why it is not ideal. Interesting. I call it the Apple-adverse strategy.
I’m often asked why I enjoy working with social media. My response is usually short and sweet, just take a look at what it is doing to business.
A Shift in the Business Paradigm
When I attend high-level objective meetings with clients, listen to the strategic talks of the C-Suites, or attend brand positioning agency group-ups, I often hear one or all of the following:
We need to work on putting our customers first
Let’s focus less on profits, and more on customer needs
We’re striving for customer centricity
From now on, we’re viewing our consumers as an extension of our brand
Everything we do, we will do in the best interest of our end users
And the list goes on. I could think of about 100 ways to say the same thing, which is the underlying statement of everything above; ”we have never given a shit about our customers, and for the first time we’re getting exposed.”
I guess there is a first time for everything. That is why I enjoy working with social media.
Putting CUSTOMERS FIRST isn’t a Strategy
The problem with organizations, is that they still view putting customers first (e.g. customer-forward, customer-centric, brand culture, etc) as a strategy. If this is one of you, read this next segment slowly: putting your customers first is not a strategy. It’s really not people. This isn’t some BS I’m throwing into a blog post to beg for relevancy. Putting your customers first is purely the cost of doing business.
If your goal is to not be “of service” to your customer, whether it be through a product or a service, than you don’t have the single-most important pillar to long-term success. However, ten, twenty, thirty years ago you could omit this pillar and get away with it. It was a temporary flaw in the system. But, the introduction of technology and social media has put business BACK in its place.
A Case Study
I see more and more businesses that get this train of thought (pun intended on the photo below). They realize you have to work hard to gain customers, and even harder to gain lifetime customers. (Why? Probably become new businesses are usually started by young entrepreneurs, who use tech and social media as tools, and thus, understanding their importance).
Now, let’s get one thing clear, Michael Dubin, President & CEO of Dollar Shave Club, gets it. Let’s look at the crucial steps in his go-to-market plan that got his business to where it is today:
Developed an industry-changing idea (razors as a service, not a product)
Created an advertising epidemic (viral YouTube video)
Laid the foundation for a GREAT company (understood the importance of customer service and lifetime) customers
I don’t have time to talk about the first two of those bullets today, although that will make a fascinating follow-up blog post soon enough. Instead, let me share a fascinating exchange that happened between myself and Michael today.
1. This morning I received this email: (click on each photo to expand)
Let it be known, I had not even realized I had the wrong blades in yet. I had not complained or asked for anything in return (I mean, at the end of the day, they are just blades). Yet, Michael felt the need to reach out immediately, in what (seems to be) a personalized email. What happens next is magic:
He takes the time to explain the situation
Recognizes I was charged and that they will immediately rectify the situation
Offers to take care of my next two shipments, on the house
He then ends the email quite simply yet very genuine, “thanks for sticking with us through our growing pains, we really appreciate it.”
Now, if it ended here, my service has been so great I’m probably already a lifetime customer. Yet, what follows next just puts the icing on the cake….
2. I’m so happy with the courteous email, I also decide to send a courteous response:
Keep in mind, I send this not expecting a response. But, in the event that SOMEONE reads my email, it’s worthwhile to know that the great service is appreciated.
3. And yet, I get a response back from the man, himself.
What Michael doesn’t know, is that I am far from awesome. However, what good ‘ol Mr. Dubin does know is that people satisfied customers will share their stories. Just like his advertising epidemic, Michael is creating a customer service epidemic, and it will spread.
***UPDATE: September 12th, 2012
And right on cue, three days after receiving Michael’s email about sending the T-Shirt, I received the below at my doorstep:
Go figure, their shipping is fast… even when it is free schwag.
Pinterest no longer needs an explanation. You’re probably getting attacked from every angle with content, success stories, best practices, and how-to articles for getting your brands on Pinterest. You’re not going to get that here. What you will get, is some outside-the-box thinking for assigning value to your Pinterest endeavor…
Marketers meet my first crack at Pinterest “hard metrics.”
Listen, I hate reporting on the soft metrics. Every time someone comes at me with FB or Twitter fan and follower numbers, I cringe in disgust. Don’t come all up in here with ‘yo street terms. Leave that at the door.
Whatever you just said, step outside this office, erase those nasty client-friendly terms, then come back in and we’ll talk about social media.
No, I’m after value. I’m after a complete experience with traceable steps along the way we can measure and manipulate to fulfill strategy and impact objectives. And if your strategy is to pay money for followers.. we just ain’t gonna get along my friend. Back to business…
What I was trying to do.
I want to understand the value of a reaction. On Pinterest, this ideal reaction is a “repin.” I don’t think I need to explain this, but just for good measure, “repins” offer a pretty fair assumption of a users engagement with our content. Additionally, a repin contributes to virality. Us marketers, we loooove our virality.
Sometimes (ahem.. most of the time) we don’t have the luxury of working with brands with a strong ECOM presence. Even further, sometimes we have very little, if any, insight into digital’s impact on in-store sales numbers. A CPG client would be a GRAND example of this. I can only imagine, as a marketer, you struggle with this daily.
Guess what Pinterest does really well? I hope you guessed that it sends a lot of referral traffic to websites. Although, if you guessed it can keep track of the new beers you sample, well, kudos to you as well.
My Pinterest Formula.
Given the above value, I can assume that for every visitor I send to our CPG website, it will provide a lift in order/sales value. Therefore, I’m armed with the information I need to create this:
What the hell have I just done?
No worries ‘mon. I’ll explain. Assigning “X” as my “Repin Value,” I am calculating the value above by:
1 (the repin) + Average Virality (the historical average virality of our repins)
multiplied by our standard Pinterest click-thru rate (examined through Google Analytics)
multiplied by the assumed sales lift value (in this case, the % lift in correlation to average order value)
Let’s drop in some hypothetical numbers:
In the above example, based on historical data, I could assume an associated value of $2.81 to each repin. (You may think this is high, and it is. However, at this point in time, it is very possible to hit these marks based on the ripe nature of Pinterest. But, as Pinterest continues to gain momentum and become noisier, a value like the above will be extremely hard to accomplish. At least one could assume…)
Yet, the vibe in the air right now is still one of two things, “cool stuff Olin,” or “yea, what the hell did you just try to do?” Let me attempt to give it some appeal…
My Rationale for Why this will work for You.
All too often we get stuck on absolutes. In no way do I have the audacity to say that “this will deliver you ROI.” It won’t pard. But, what it can do is apply you with the value you need to create a fair benchmark throughout the entire funnel of events. These are “hard metrics” compadre. Numbers you can optimize against.
The most important part of this exercise (and where 95% of people get lost in focus) is by not affixing yourself to get caught up in the EXACT value of the repin, or the the EXACT fluctuation in sales lift. We have too many forces at work here to attempt that.
However, what you can look at is the cycle. This formula is divided into Exposure/Reach, Conversion, and Value. Guess what is necessary when you establish valid benchmarks?
If you said all three of those, you are correct.
My Challenge to You.
When you look at this, understand that you can manipulate every part of this funnel. We can impact Exposure based on the topical and appealing nature of our Pinterest posts. We can impact CTR by optimizing the descriptions and the value we offer our users in exchange for a click-thru (recipes, more content, discounts). Lastly, as an agency, we can impact average order value, as well as, continuing to research the in-store lifts we provide.
Let my leave you with this.
Social media is still in an adolescent phase amongst brands and marketers. We are learning. But, I assure you, the only way we can fail is through poor strategy, improper benchmarking, and misuse or a complete lack of data interpretation.
Hopefully, this generates some ideas on your end for combating those evils and becoming smarter social, data, or digital strategists.
I’m online 90% of my conscience day. Studying, comparing, and taking note to digital campaigns that catch my eye. Therefore, if you do manage to catch my eye, you’re one of the lucky ones.
So please don’t screw it up.
Online advertising has been around long enough to establish some “rules” that you just can’t break. These are the obvious necessities. Things that are now unspoken, yet understood. I don’t have to tell a basketball player to dribble the ball, and I surely don’t have to tell my Southwest pilot how to land the plane.
So, why must someone need to explain to Blue Moon’s media team that a banner’s action has to match it’s landing page?
1. Here is the creative banner:
2. And this is the landing destination:
Hmm.. I believe you screwed something up there. Ahh.. Summer Wheat. Locate It.
Yeah, that looks good, I think I’ll click on it and see where I can buy some.
Maybe Blue Moon was trying to avoid the fact that their locator is absolutely horrendous. Regardless, don’t use a direct-response technique with a call-to-action of locating something, when all you’re going to do is dump them on your home page.