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Archive for the ‘Dialogue Marketing’ Category

Why You Must Tinker with Your Social Media “Why?”

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Strategy is a fuse. You must light the fuse.

Say you’re writing a blog.

Any blog. Maybe…a blog where you want to get people to tell their stories (purely hypothetical example). Or this: maybe you are running a blog aimed at pulling in people looking for insights about what our national obsessions say about us, as told through the press. Again: pure theory. Just making this up. Both blog examples sound a bit vague—but that’s the groovy deal with social media: you try something and see what happens.

So, say you try stuff.

Say you fail.

But…you learn stuff. And you tune it up.

You go back to your original strategy document and realize: Oh! Our stories must be more than just well-told (though that is certainly the beginning point). They must pull people in with tight surprises or well-crafted morals. Or something. Because these stories are competing with Angry Birds and Facebook and actual paid work—all manner of distractions that keep people from reading our blog. So those stories gotta be good. They’ve got to be better in a way we’ve not quite yet devised.

And so your strategy evolves.

Congratulations: this is what forward movement looks like.

These are the questions any brand faces, with the added goal of trying not to devolve into a selling spiel. This social media world is no static, set-it-and-forget-it deal. It’s more like a living, breathing conversation in a room full of people constantly walking in and out. And for your brand to be heard, for your blog to be recognized, for your insights to be caught, you must continue to tighten the focus on who you are trying to reach and get better at laying out the right content for your target audience to feed on.

And this: there is an aspirational part to providing strategic content. I like how Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach says it in Content Strategy for the Web:

Aspirational: it’s a stretch for the organization, focusing on what you want to become ideally (not what you can feasibly do).

Content must paint a picture of who we are that is slightly in the future and slightly a wish list. Brands do this constantly, of course, which is why people buy BMW or Coke or Apple. They buy into the vision as they purchase the product.

How can we do that for the community we want to build with our blog content? It starts and continues with focused attention on what this audience needs, today, tomorrow and the next day. Our content must paint a picture of we can be at our best.

This will always be a moving target.



Groundswell: Your Moment Has Passed.

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So 2008.

I’m done with Groundswell.

Oh, I like the book. A lot. And the argument for an empowered people (via social technologies) continues to make excellent sense. Li and Bernoff did a great service by gathering facts and stories into a rational retelling of where we are today with hearing and connecting en masse.

When I first read Groundswell, emotive moments of recognition flickered constantly. Li and Bernoff led the way in helping me understand this unfolding opportunity lodged in my computer. But those moments are not just in my computer any more. They are on my phone, in my pocket and before my eyes as I walk.

It’s the ubiquity of the opportunity that makes everything look different.

Students in my class assume forums for support will be available, they turn to product and service reviews first—why wouldn’t they? Reviews from peers have always been available. These self-proclaimed 90s kids (I guess that’s a thing) interact in most of the ways that Li and Bernoff predicted. So there are few emotive flickers from them even as I shout “Yes!” (possibly to their “Huh?” and amusement). And these students demonstrate a familiarity with technology far advanced from students even two years ago.

So…wheels turn and time goes on and books fade to triviality. I’ll suppose I’ll check out Empowered next time I teach this class. The last thing anybody needs is another old guy in their life telling how things used to be.

And this: the Groundswell moment just passed has opened on a much wider vista that seems to invite collaboration like never before. To not listen to each other is starting to feel like a cardinal sin. Not because it dishonors the human condition (which it does) but because the opportunities in working together are beginning to look massive.



Let’s Infect Ourselves: The Logical Conclusions of Social Media

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Just Walk the Opportunity Backwards and You’ll See

It’s easy to love the tools of social media and become all enamored by what they do and the sorts of connections they make. Brand new connections you would never have made before. But connecting takes a lot of energy and frankly, lots of vigilance. One must keep atop one’s game. And if you stop (connecting), well, you lose it all.

In this ever-connecting world there is a growing sense that the old marketing monologue, the one we used to interrupt and hypnotize potential customers, is being boxed and shelved. Over at Clarity Coverdale Fury they talk a lot about the characteristics of the Conscious Consumer, how purchasing choices are coming from a more thoughtful place. And students in my Social Media Marketing class confirm that the threshold for seeking information on even common purchases is getting lower and lower. Why not get a review on a cup of coffee before you buy? It’s too easy.

Some smart folks will gather to discuss what employee collaboration looks like in companies today. Deep collaboration seems a logical conclusion of connecting, especially as we pivot away from command and control styles of leadership. I’m curious to hear how the innate rewards of being a boss and being in charge fit with the goal of bringing out the collaborative best in people. So I signed up to attend the breakfast. My experience is that those intent on ascending the corporate ladder have neither the same desires nor the skill sets as those who enable collaboration. Of course, they are not always mutually exclusive

But this is where we are going: Deeper employee collaboration. Deeper collaboration between customers and companies, where customers have a voice not just for getting support but now for product development.

This is the logical conclusion of connecting.

It is written.



Kristina Halvorson & The Discipline of Making Stuff Up

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Content Strategy and Brain Traffic

Someone asked a perfectly reasonable question:

What is content?

Our Social Media Marketing class is composed of collegiates with a passion for writing and communicating. Whether from the Journalism/Communication school or from the English department, we’ve come together around this notion of producing content in pursuit of a vision.

So we write.

While “content” seems a rude way to talk about the deep thinking that goes into a paper on, say, the merits of determinism, it’s a term that works pretty well for less lofty/more human conversation. The kinds of conversation suited to inviting in semi-interested onlookers.

Content is the stuff we use to describe our vision for…whatever. If we’re building a coalition to alleviate homelessness, the content we produce will point to the problem, tell stories about real people, show the inadequacy of current solutions and keep offering attitudes that illustrate the need and humanity of the man on the corner with the sign. If we work for a company that makes implantable deep brain stimulators, our content will highlight the current science behind Parkinson’s disease, show current (inadequate) ways of dealing with the disease, harp on the benefits of such stimulation without hiding the downsides.01302014-content-strategy-diagram

Kristina Halvorson, founder and CEO of Brain Traffic and co-author of Content Strategy for the Web will join us today (provided she can plow through 4-6 inches of new snow) to talk about the disciplines involved with making stuff up. Because that’s what content is: making stuff up. For a purpose. Making stuff up in accordance with a discipline, toward a specific end, to meet a particular business or social objective. That’s why content and writing go so well together: there’s nothing a writer likes more than stepping into a big idea and exploring the main streets, side streets and alleys and foot paths with words and images and video. Sometimes we have a map to start with. Sometimes we make up the map as we go.

Mostly we do both.


Image credits: Brain Traffic

Chief Conversation Officer: So 2009

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Still…what if we armed someone with authority and charged them with getting us talking?12202013-tumblr_my0lh6gulW1qe0lqqo1_1280

Not just some C-level social media manager—I mean someone really interested in starting conversations throughout an organization and (especially) outside the organization. A sort of gadfly armed with an attitude and a purpose. That purpose would not be selling (it seems natural to put a garrulous salesperson in that position, doesn’t it?). The purpose would be collaboration. And the attitude? Open.

This chief conversation officer would not deploy monologue with all her contacts. Instead, she would be skilled in the art of the open-ended question. She would be relational and vulnerable.


But those are the building blocks of conversation.

Anyone intent on climbing through an organization will read those words and be repelled—“relational” and “vulnerable” represent the opposite of the power trip and pulling rank. Just think on the best, most productive conversations you’ve had and you’ll see you were free to say anything, you were pulled in by the enthusiasm of your conversation partner and by the crazy fun of participation. You were not worried about how you were coming across—which is the collateral damage of most boss-focused rhetoric.

The Chief Conversation Officer (CCO) will be a fearless talker and an optimist. He’ll be a mindful connector. He doesn’t know where the next terrific idea will come from. But he fearlessly pursues conversation with janitors and CEOs and middle managers and walks along with line workers to hear their concerns and ideas. The CCO is boundary-crosser and synthesizer: processing information from everywhere and spinning it into, well, gold.

Launching people left and right.

Sounds like a fun job.

And this: the Chief Conversation Officer could work effectively from nearly any actual position.

What if 2014 were the year of the Chief Conversation Officer?


Image credit: Ho-yeol Ryu via MPD

Aunt Jo’s Snack Mix Recipe + Mop Mop Mix Footage

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Careful with that marimba!

Make it today so you don’t eat it all before the kids arrive. And don’t try to mix too closely to the crazy marimba tempo:

Aunt Jo’s Snack Mix

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 6 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex
  • 3 cups Corn Chex
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 1.5 cups pretzels
  • 1 can mixed nuts
  • 1.5 cup Cheese Nips
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Melt margarine in saucepan.
  3. Remove from heat; add salt, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Combine cereals.
  5. Pour margarine mixture over cereal and toss (loosely imitating marimba beat).
  6. Add pretzels, cheese nips and mixed nuts.
  7. Toss until all pieces are coated.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes in large shallow baking pan, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
  9. Try to not eat it all the first night.

You’re welcome.


Written by kirkistan

November 26, 2013 at 5:33 am

Ben Kyle: Hey—What if We Did a Living Room Tour?

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The Dog Days of DIY

07082013-tumblr_mpmcl33I561qbmgeto1_500There is no one on the other end of this telephone connection who can help set up my new smartphone. With my last several technology purchases I’ve found myself alone in the final fine-tuning that actually makes the device work. Oh—there is certainly tech support. But my questions seem to send the customer representative to their supervisor (>30 minutes on hold) for answers. Not because I’m so smart, only because I am the chief of my cobbled-together IT system and I seem to always demand awkward things of said system. This is my penance for pushing for non-standard capabilities.

But maybe do it yourself is not such a bad set of expectations.

And maybe do it yourself is the future of, well, everything.

A local artist I find myself listening to again and again—Ben Kyle of Romantica—seems to be doing this very thing. He’s taking his music into the homes of friends and strangers. Right into their living rooms. Pot-luck and BYOB. Sign up here and you’ll see Ben singing from the ottoman. Can this be literally true—have I got this right?

If so, I’m watching for other artists to do the same. Why not run a DIY art gallery (oh, wait, that’s been done for years). Why not bribe neighbors with brats and beer to come to my book reading? Why not summon an interpretive dance-off on my front lawn?

As a nation we’ve always been enamored by fame. Anyone’s definition of “making it” inevitably carries some component of fame. You’re a success when everyone knows your name. If everyone knows your name you are a success. How else to account for the seeming success of the Kardashians who are famous for being famous?

But this DIY future doesn’t look like mass audiences following influential taste-makers. At least not at first. Ben Kyle is on to something that real influencers have known for years, that building an audience is a person-by-person activity. This is the word-of-mouth model: generally slow but immensely effective.

And maybe anything worth doing is worth doing one-on-one, despite what our national psyche longs for. I’m with Mother Teresa on this one:

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.


Image credit: Francesco Romoli via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

Speak Up: I Can’t See You.

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We’re Walking Catalysts

tumblr_mf5hvdVRj71qbcporo1_1280-12282012There’s a point at the end of The Sixth Sense where everything suddenly shifted. One piece of information—one realization—and all the characters and their relationships went topsy-turvy. Then the story begged to be retold in this new light and the second time through I was on high alert, noting all the clues I missed the first time.

Our best interactions with our audiences can have this quality: holding attention until the reveal makes perfect sense, so much so that our audience says, “Duh. Of course. How did I miss that?” This is a great way to teach, but also very difficult to achieve. This kind of clever communication front-loads with just the right context and then delivers the missing key ingredient.

Our favorite products fit our lives in this way: how did we ever survive without the iPod or cell phone? Or the car? They make perfect sense in daily use. Well, now they make perfect sense. They didn’t always, that’s because a context grew up around the product that reinforced its use. We saw other people using it. And we found our ways changing in anticipation.

Products and ideas that demand something different of us don’t just happen. In fact, we resist them. Some kind of context must arise to reinforce the use of the product or adoption of the idea. That context is different for everyone, but usually starts with reason and proof points, but it doesn’t end there. Even the physician who claims to only be swayed by medical journals still has a soft spot for using the product her peers consider cutting edge. Emotion and relationship are big parts of why we use products and adopt ideas.

All this is to say that we constantly influence each other. Our words and our actions serve as catalysts—that missing ingredient that changes everything—often in ways that we never know. Most people don’t come back and say, “When you chose the salad instead of the chicken-fried steak, you changed my eating habits and my life.”

We don’t even realize how little observations add to big change.


Image credit: Jim Kramer via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

December 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

How to Blog Your Company’s Top Voice

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Your Company’s Outside Voice Must Be Personal & Remarkable

I’ve been helping a few clients think about their outside voice. Blogging has its own peculiar set of requirements that set it apart from the tone of a brochure, say. Or from a corporate press release. That recurring blog voice is related to the messaging identity your company has established. That voice is also related to the design and tone of your corporate website, true, but it is not a one-to-one correspondence.

One primary difference: your blog voice must be personal.

A blog is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It must not deteriorate into a selling monologue. And it is not constantly pointing to benefits and features (which quickly gets tiresome). It’s a different animal—a personal voice. It’s got to be a conversation that takes wide and narrow routes on the way to discussing what is remarkable. The best blogs are smart and timely and pull readers in by offering this personal perspective on things of mutual interest.

Just a bit of practice using the public voice helps clients see why their outside voice must be personal and have a personality behind it (not as redundant as it sounds). It doesn’t take many sample posts to show that customers and potential customers are intrigued by an inside track into the mind of that top voice. And that top voice can pull peripheral topics to the center of discussion to show how they relate, for instance. Or to show how certain a practice will move the industry forward.

And remarkable.

Interestingly, outside voice has a way of trimming and freeing and impacting a company’s inside voice. Outside voice and inside voice are related—how could it be otherwise? What is remarkable (and thus worth blogging about) must also be remarkable on the inside of the company. The top voice blogging about what is remarkable in the industry must also pass the believability test for those inside the company. Because folks inside a company tune their BS meters to High the moment they walk in the door. Remaining personal and true is essential.

So…blogging the top voice is not an easy path. But that has always been the way of relationship-building with peers, employees, clients, customers and potential customers and even congregants. And relationship-building is worth the time and effort.


Image Credit: We Made This via thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

October 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

The Decline of Fact in Our National Conversation (and How to Avoid Despair)

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Louder Preaching is Not the Answer

It seems wrong to call it a national conversation when we mostly monologue at each other. And most of our monologues are meant only to reinforce the already-believers listening. Republican Paul Ryan’s recent string of verbal deceptions was a stunningly brazen example of half-facts delivered with full-on force—but both sides are equally guilty. That both Democrats and Republican play loose with facts is neither a surprise nor anything new. So it has always been: we persuade each other by twisting facts in our favor and choosing not to reveal the truths that would balance our cherry-picked facts.

It is natural (though not necessary) to become cynical about our national exchange of monologues. Recognizing that any speaker is likely persuading you with only half the relevant facts is probably not a bad strategy to adopt for the next three months—or the next 30 years. It is also easy to see how this strategy only accelerates skepticism about the official word of any authority. And so “Question Authority” returns as a relevant bumper sticker, several decades later. Or was it ever out of style?

How to Avoid Despair and Reject Cynicism

Remaining skeptical of facts presented as truth is a good starting point. And perhaps seeking a generous spirit that questions facts even while looking behind the facts to ask what broader point the monologist is making. But we must speak up and expect dialogue rather than more indoctrination.

More preaching will not do.


Image Credit: Volkskrant Magazine via coverjunkie/thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

September 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

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