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Product Management Virtues:Patience (or, how I learned to be patient and have it all..)

Something I love about product management here at Salesforce – among many things – is the way I’m always learning something new. Often the hard way, but hey, my motto’s “make every mistake, and make it only once..” (sigh).

Anyway, one thing I’ve had drilled into my head the last couple months: Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s an absolute must in product. Gotta have it.

For the record, I’m not in any way a patient person.  I read fast. I walk fast. I interrupt people who’re talking too slowly. I get irritated by phone lag when I’m talking to Europe.  And man, product management forces you to be patient in infinitely cruel and innovative ways.  So I’m learning.

via http://ramblingsouthernmonkey.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/waiting22.jpg

The daily standup takes patience; I want things to go faster. I want people to talk faster. I want them to explain their results, not tell us how they got there. I want to make a decision. Let’s move!

… But it’s vital to step back and be an observer of the team in action. Everyone has a role to play — and in agile methodology, product is supposed to act as a resource in the daily standup; I’m not supposed to try and run the meeting. And I just gum up the works when I pitch in too often.  Patience, padawan…

 

Planning takes patience: I want to plan now, because the schedule says we’re supposed to do planning today – even though we’re behind on bugs, and the devs haven’t looked at the stories yet, and we’re just. Not. Ready. But we’re supposed to plan today! Let’s jut plan and get it over with!  I understand the stories.  OK, Mostly

… but when I don’t cross all the T’s and dot the I’s, and when I push too hard (this just happened to me), then we get into a planning meeting, and I’m nervous, and everyone else is irritated. Bad combination.  Lesson? Wait until everyone is ready to go. Listen to your managers when they go “we can’t plan yet, it’s too soon.”  … and most important, don’t be afraid of waiting. So we get one less story done (maybe) and everyone’s happier (certainly), and sometimes we even move faster in the long run.

Working in a big company takes patience: I get so very very tired of verifying we’re doing the right thing at every turn.  I have too many stakeholders, and so does everyone else. (Or maybe we’re just a matrixed organization, and collaboration is the name of the game in business these days.. ;). My team is  too dependent on other teams, and we can’t move until they do. They’re too dependent on us, and we have to drop stories to get their stories in. Can’t we just do our own thing, already?!? 

… But when I play by the rules, and when I plan far enough in advance, we’re a big company with an incredible amount of power, and we can all move together. I have to be patient, and get all the signoffs, and wait to make the right move at the right time. And in the long run, we get a lot more done, together.

 


Working on a big project Just. Takes. Time. 

via http://www.playingiseducational.info/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/blocks.jpg

And maybe this is the hardest thing of all – You have to learn to pace yourself.  (It’s kinda amusing how many people have said this to me recently. And kinda sad.  But I digress…).
Thing is, if you’re going to do an enormous project – or an enormous product – with  lots of smart people, and lots of roadmap, and greenfield every way you look, it’s going to take time. And customers want things now, and partners want things now, and internal stakeholders want things now.

And I want to do amazing things and make everyone happy, and have awesome demos, and get everything all out the door in one release, and I see other Product Managers having great successes — and I have to remind myself: they’re two years farther in, and they’ve laid the groundwork.

And they’ve been patient.

And focused.  But that’s another post ;)

 

Posted in Career, corporate, Ownership, Product Management, psychology, Software.

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The Case of the Mistaken Ingram: Serving Customers that Aren’t your Customers (yet)

There are a lot of people out there who don’t understand email.

Or who can’t type.  Or maybe it’s both.

How do I know?

Loretta Ingram (banking), L Ingalls (beauty), Laurence Ingram (Car insurance), Laura (credit cards), Viola (Facebook?) & more — all of them gave my email address as their own — and now I’m getting their official email.  

A lot of it is really personal, too – balances remaining, transfer numbers, account changes, overdraft charges, nail salon appointments, family pictures, legal fees, housing — if you want to take someone’s nail appointment, believe me, the easiest thing to do is file a common email address, and just wait.

This is amusing at first.

And then it’s less amusing.

And then it gets really, really annoying.

And Lillie Ingram, who just opened an account with Wells Fargo? She’s not receiving her emails.  

 

So what’s the Wells Fargo not-your-customer experience look like?

Here’s the email I received — very much not addressed to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now I’m asking myself… How do I stop receiving these before I get to learn all about Lillie’s deposits? 

… I head to the bottom of the email. There are 2 links — Unsubscribe, and Not A Customer:

 

The unsubscribe page looks like this – 

it has nothing to do with my problem; I’m not receiving ‘optional’ emails – I’m receiving personal emails to the wrong person.

(On a related note, why is there a radio button for not unsubscribing? In what universe does it make sense to ‘submit’ to Wells Fargo that I’m choosing not to unsubscribe?) 

…. OK, so it must be the other one! 

I click “Contact us here” — do I wind up on a useful page, or a page with a useful link? HAH:

 

So here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to block all email from Wells Fargo. (unroll.me is great for this, by the way), and I’ll – maybe, if I’m very annoyed or worried – go to social media and complain.

… or maybe I’ll write a blog post.

 

Bottom line: 

When you’re thinking about your customer experience, you also need to think about the people that aren’t your customers. What’s the experience for people that didn’t sign up for your service? For people that park next to the car you make? For people that wander into your shop thinking it’s a different one?  (For customers that aren’t receiving their emails, because Lauren is getting them instead? ;)

Every interaction you have is marketing — even the ones you don’t mean to have. 

Even the ones your customers don’t know you’re having with other people, instead of with them.

Even the ones you’re having with customers who *might* be your customers, someday.

 

Oh – and Lillie? If you’re out there somewhere — could you please (please) change your email address? I hear larry.ellison@gmail.com is free.. 

 

 

Posted in Customer, Experience, service.

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Vignettes Involving the Color Pink

One

“Hi! My name’s Lauren, and I work for a software company.”

“Yeah? I’m Oliver. Nice to meet you. I bet you love the color pink.”

“…. What?”

“It’s obvious – you have  boobs, so you must like pink. Oh, and I’d be surprised if you’re really technical at all (I mean, come on, you like pink!). Let’s talk fashion instead.”


Two

I’m at a company gathering, the other day.  Two people stand up to ask the execs questions at the end of all the presentations.

Person A: “Hi! I’m new here! What do you recommend I do to succeed?”
(me: good question!..) 

Person B: “Hi! I have boobs! What do you recommend we people with boobs do to succeed?”
(me: …..)


Three

One of the execs responds “I’m throwing a dinner party, where people with boobs can network with each other, and where we’re not inviting anyone without boobs!”

I view the registration site later.  It’s drowning in beautiful shades of perfect, pastel pink.

 


Parts Two and Three are true (substituting “woman” for “has boobs”) – and both make me feel like I’m living part One.

I’m a chick. I work in tech.  I try to get my job done, and done well, and get done at a semi-normal hour so I can go out later. I want to succeed. And get promoted. And rule the world, and everything else the average business world, quasi-psychopath wants.  I understand that success takes sacrifice, and compromise, and the ability to keep going against all odds.

And I want to be recognized on the basis of my own effort, my own ability to network and compete (and win). Same pass/fail as everyone else, boobs or not .

It’s frustrating to see all of that boiled down to “She has boobs. She must want a pink website.” It’s irritating. It’s patronizing. It’s insulting. It’s… it’s stereotyping.

… If we can be mutually useful, let’s network! I really don’t care if you have boobs. Or not. Whatever ;)

 


Posted in Career, Choice, Comparison, Culture, Gender Roles, Networking.

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How to Survive Dreamforce

So you’re headed to Dreamforce 2012??  If you’re like me, you already know this is Woodstock – but technology style.  You’v already downloaded the Dreamforce party app, signed up for the coolest sessions (the ones on the Service Cloud, obviously!), and you’re scheming exactly how to get your picture taken with Marc.

… but how do you survive Dreamforce 2012?? ….



Posted in corporate, Dreamforce 2012, Salesforce, Social Media, Technology.

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Defining Good Service: Like Everything, It’s Personal

“So my personal shopper called

and set aside this Burberry trench coat for me,” says a friend, “and the next day I went to the store to pick it up.  But when I got home and put it on– it still had the anti-theft screamer on it. I couldn’t possibly wear it out that night!”

I nod, thinking how Very Much I want a Burberry trench myself, and say, “so… what happened?”

“So I email my shopper a picture of the tag,” she says, “and she writes back right away, all apologies, and says she can come to the office the next day and take it off for me herself.  I don’t have time for that, so I’m like ‘no worries, I’ll just go back to the store later this week…’”

… Leaving aside how very much I want a Burberry trench coat* this is a fantastic service vignette; the  Personal Shopper (PS ;) saw it as part of her job to apologize for a bad experience, even though the experience was in NO WAY her fault.  PS did everything right – she knew her client, she knew she latest fashions, picked out the item, bought it, had it ready to go at the right time, at the right store …

… and then the store screwed up.  And PS apologizes.

And (this is the interesting part) – that was exactly the service my friend wanted. She took care of the rest herself (went back to the store, got the tag removed, moved on. In Style.)

 

In contrast: 

I also had a support issue recently – my wallet was stolen, all my credit cards used. Mostly at Trader Joe’s, where, apparently, they never check ID’s.  (argh).  So I cancelled all my cards, started trying to get refunded.  And man, did I learn a lot about credit card customer service..   A few weird results:

  • Banana Republic is confusing: You can do everything online. Great! Only then they close your online account, and you have to create a whole new one, with a new login and password and security code. And it doesn’t have any of the records from the last card. (What?)
  • American Express is awesome. They rock. They do it all online.  And they’re sympathetic! … except, if you don’t call during business hours, they can’t do anything but close the card.  (So i can get a refund online anytime, but not at 6pm PST on the phone?)
  • Chase has the most irritating phone tree known to man (or woman). But we knew that already.

Both service experience required totally different kinds of good, fast, service responses.

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There’s a rumor making the rounds that says good service takes more time, feels more human.  I strongly disagree. Try this on instead:

Good service is a quick, expected, satisfying response.

(By extension, great service is faster, better, awesomer..)

.

When I’m using a PS (someday, I swear!) great service means I get personal attention, and access to the PS’s experience and opinions (“Those look great, but people keep returning them and saying they hurt. Try these…”).

… s/he should know everything about my style, and have my credit card number – but not my social security, my mother’s maiden name..

When I’m closing my credit card, I want it to be as fast and easy and impersonal as possible (I’m already stressed out, I don’t have the time to talk about it, and I probably have to do it 5 more times today..)

… I want you to know everything about me, so I can be sure we plug all the holes, get my money back…

When I’m at a nice restaurant, I want personal service in an impersonal style (be friendly, but not too friendly – always there, but only when I want you..)

… The less you know about my history the better – but the more you please me now, the bigger your tip..

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Ultimately, the timing – and the kind and level that define ‘good’ service – is personal: 

  • It’s personal to your industry (what’s the average?)
  • It’s personal to your company (what are your standards?)
  • It’s personal to your customers (what are their expectations?)
.

And the moral is…

Good service should be personal when appropriate, and impersonal when not.  It should be what I expect – no phone trees for my PS, no chatty credit card resetters – and most important, it should happen in a reasonable timeframe.  

Today, service isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition- not for companies, and not for the people they serve.  Service is also a marketing proposition – so we’ve got to get it right. Again:

Good service is a quick, expected, satisfying response.

Figure out what that is for your industry, implement, and you’re golden.

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And on a related note… I still desperately want a Burberry trench coat. In orange. Or any color.

… help?

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*Lots. More than two. As in, Want.

Posted in Comparison, Culture, Customer, Experience, Great Service, Information, Motivation, service.

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“I am your father…” (Service, Public Perception, and Your Bottom Line)

Was at dinner a few nights ago with friends,* and we got around to talking about smartphones & service providers.  And – as always happens – we eventually concluded AT&T was the Darth Vader to Verizon’s Luke.  Goliath vs. David. Starsky and Hutch.

…. You get the picture.

I’ve noticed this almost always happens, whether I start the conversation or not, whether I participate, or not.  And there are only two complaints:

  1. My Service Sucks (and this is always secondary to….)
  2. Those bastards are so mean to me when I call!!

I can’t speak to AT&T’s service, whether personal or of the celltower variety. I’ve never been a customer.** And given all the bad reviews, I may never be one.

This is bad news for AT&T. And here’s why:
.

Service trumps price trumps service

Service>$$>Service.
Rock, paper, scissors.
Bottom line: When given a choice between decent service and a decent price, or good service and a high price, most people will choose the mid-to-low range. They assume nothing’s perfect anyway, that marginally better service isn’t worth the extra money.
In other words, if  you and your competitors all check off the same basic features (“available everywhere,” “free text messaging,” “can stream videos..”), people make decisions based on price.
BUT:
.

Good service – human service – trumps both price and actual service.

Hence the whole AT&T/Verizon debate.  Maybe Verizon’s better here in the city. Maybe not. I’d certainly like to think so.*** But it doesn’t matter. Phone pricing structures make it hard to leave (2 year contracts, expensive phones for free if you stick around..) and – therefore – new customers make up a significant portion of growth.****
And this is where Service starts to look a lot like marketing.
Aside from using the product, the only other touch most people have with your company will be the phone call, the visit to the store, the email.  The bill.  And the discussion thereof.
Usually people only call in – or come in – if they want something to change.  A new phone. An upgrade. A downgrade. A cancellation. Fix my bill.  WHY DON’T I HAVE SERVICE AT HOME….?
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And this is where I see Verizon doing something genius:
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It’s a Policy: Make Customers Happy.

Fix customer’s problems.
I can only back this up anecdotally, but I’ve heard a lot of stories by now.  “I went in to Verizon,” he’ll say, “and they gave me a cut on the bill. They upgraded my phone when they didn’t have to. The agent threw in a free battery…”
.
Assuming this is policy on Verizon’s part (and they can’t have that many customer-focused agents by chance), the bottom line is they’re spending money to keep customers – and they’re spending money, at the same time, to get new ones.
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Good Policy. Good Service. And Scalable!

This, unlike Morton’s over-the-top-let-me-bring-you-a-steak service, is a scalable service policy.  It can be implemented every day. It’s one that works for a large company like Verizon specifically because it is scalable.
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SO:  Is Verizon the best phone company out there? Do they have better service than anyone else? Are their
prices reasonable? No idea.
But I do know they found a way to upgrade me to an iphone early.  Which generated this blog post.
.

And that is clever marketing.


*the place: “Q Restaurant,” inner Richmond.  Have the burger.  And the garlic fries.  You’re welcome :D

**This is the part, incidentally, where I reiterate the point that I’m speaking on my own behalf, and not that of my employer…

***And I’ve sunk enough money on my phone bills to think it’d better be…

****The other growth area, if you made me guess, is upsell to existing customers..

Posted in Choice, Comparison, Customer, Experience, Incentives, service.

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New Year’s Resolutions – 2012 Version

A new year. New year’s Resolutions.

Some people love ‘em. Others, not so much.  I’m a fan – gives me something to work toward – and something to look back on later…. if only see how much harder the resolutions were than I thought they’d be ;)

There are two theories to resolutions: the specific and the general variety – goal oriented and process-oriented, if you will.

I’ve always thought goal-oriented resolutions are good for things like losing weight, blogging (see below), etc – because they demand specific action. Pick the goal, do the math backwards, put action items on your calendar, and you’re good to go.

On other end of the scale are general resolutions; “be less like X” or “Do more of Y” – harder to measure (more than what? less than now?) and harder to certify success or failure.  They’re great for getting a new mindset going, though – “do more crunches” inspires me to keep trying, where “do 100 a day” is a pass/fail kind of game.

In any case, here are mine for 2012.

“let it hereby be known that Lauren Ingram resolves to…”

.

Generally:

  • Stop spending on things i don’t have to pay for
    – in a few categories:

    • Stuff work will pay for: Transit fees, phone bills, massages (no, really), lunch while travelling…
    • Stuff I pay for because I’m not paying attention: Parking tickets, late payment fees, etc.
    • Pretty clothing i’ll never – or almost never – wear. This one’s hard.  But I’d like to make some headway… :)
      .
  • Get (much) better at the Politics of Motivation (enterprise version)
    I’m still working on finding a happy medium between:

    • On the one hand: pushing to get things accomplished (danger: people think you’re a total asshole) vs…
    • on the other: waiting for things to run their course (“check in, tune out..”)
      … but it’s so very important to learn the subtleties of working with other teams, other leaders – how to drive development and change whilst maintaining salary, serenity, and sanity…
      .
  • A Long-term finance plan. Make one.
    … essentially: how do i plan to pay for all the big things in my future? Everything from school to travel to my (future, possible) kids’ college education…
    .
  • Do more crunches!

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… and In Specific:

  • Call my mother once a week (hi mom! this one’s for you!)
  • Take an economics course (or two)
  • Take a 2-week vacation somewhere – Europe, SE Asia, South America … Just because.

Posted in Institutions, Motivation.

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Everyday > Extraordinary. Encore!

“Excuse me,” said the guy behind the Wynn’s checkin desk, “did you know you’re actually booked at the Encore?”

“Um.” I said. “Really?” (I am, you see, as eloquent in real life as on the screen)

“I can check you in here,” he said, “and you can walk over, go straight to your room. It’s really easy. I’ll show you on the map…”

And then he handed me this:

The right key, for the right resort (not a repurposed Wynn key), with all the info I need – the location, my name, and my guest ID#.
Want to charge something to the room? Just show your key..

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In Vegas – as everywhere, only more so- the experience is key. Per Wiki:

Encore Las Vegas and its sister property, Wynn Las Vegas collectively hold more Forbes five-star awards than any other casino-resort in the world and it is considered to be one of the finest hotels in the world.[4]

So if you were to study good hotel service, anywhere – you’d study it here.

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About that Experience…

Compared with other Vegas hotels, The Wynn and Encore feel like upscale southern hotels – warm, bright, tasteful. Definitely not overwhelming. The atrium has a miniature forest with hanging lights, curving walkways. Angles are carefully calculated so no hallway seems too long. Checkin is a small room off to the side (versus the Venetian or Caesars, where the desks go on forever..)
The experience is closer to exclusivity than carnivale (for Vegas).**

The room: wall-to wall mirrors reflecting a full-wall window view of Vegas. Beige carpets. Black furniture. An enormous TV. Wifi and an impressive range of snacks. Pretty much your average Vegas, only with modern decorations. ***

I called room service. They said half an hour. They showed up in half an hour, to the minute.

It was very nice.

It wasn’t wildly impressive.

But it was consistently good, and it was what I’d expect from the Encore.

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So … why write about an average experience?

Collectively, the Interweb has made a great deal out of over-the-top, extraordinary service – like Morton’s bringing a porterhouse to the airport for Peter Shankman.

That’s a level of service you and I are unlikely to ever experience. And we shouldn’t have to.

Freebies, when done well, go above and beyond – but they should go above and beyond service that’s already strong, already a great experience. Freebies should be an attention-grabbing gesture pointing toward an awesome average experience.****

Sometimes, over-the-top service promotes an already strong brand – and sometimes it’s meant as a bandaid, to cover the gaping wound of bad service and (or) worse products.

In other words: If your service is lousy, or all you hear from customers is product complaints, fix that first! The extraordinary gesture brings more attention – but it doesn’t fix anything. Extraordinary service makes a very bad bandaid.

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The Bottom Line

An extraordinary service experience is marketing - especially when had by a carefully-chosen social influencer.  It creates buzz.  It brings in new business.

The average experience is the one that defines your brand, and keeps customers coming back for more.

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So yes – the extraordinary experience gets all the press, but it’s not the most important.  To be successful at service, it’s imperative your day-to-day service experience is consistent, good, and as expected.

A t the Encore, that means linen napkins, hot soup, and real silver – all hand-served by a butler.  I’ve gotta go back and try the steak…

.

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* I blame this on the corporate reservation system, and not my own absentmindedness.  Honest.

** An interesting point here: Is miniaturization in electronics, mass-produced ‘luxury’ goods, and interaction with Europe and Asia driven a new concept of luxury — the new apogee is a smaller, impeccably tailored experience (vs. an overwhelmingly grand one?)

*** also condoms and a series of ‘adult games’ right next to the bottled water…

**** Like Mortons’ :)

Posted in Customer, Social Media.

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About this Collaboration Thing: Do I Get To Keep my Job?

Social Enterprise: Scary?

I recently briefed a customer on the Social Enterprise; the idea that internal collaboration (between employees) and external conversation (employees/enterprise to customers) makes a business faster, stronger, and ultimately, more successful.

In essence: the customer is now in the driver’s seat; s/he should be the focus of your organization.

But I’m not bringing this up to talk about Salesforce itself.(1)  I want to talk about something my customer said:

(Salesforce.com)

“In theory this whole social enterprise thing is greatbut in practice, we find people are afraid to share anything. They think they’ll become redundant if they digitize everything they know – and then they’ll lose their jobs…”

Bottom line: employees often don’t see the point of collaboration – and even if they do, they think the social enterprise is more likely to hurt than help them professionally.

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Even as we see US unemployment climbing, we’re asking people to do the unprecedented; to digitize their knowledge, make it easily transferable.  We’re asking people to transfer their skill set from knowledge hoarding (“you have to ask Mary for the answer”) to knowledge creation/dissemination.
The implication is we’ll reward people based on current performance (knowledge creation), not their acquired knowledge base (ie, seniority). That, in turn, implies better (or faster) digitization will mean job security – and, someone, tell me please, who’s perceived as better at the digital world? It’s not people over 40. (2)
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So let’s talk about democracy.

No, really:

Democracy is a form of government in which all people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. …  It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.

(via Wikipedia)

OK (you say) – “I learned that in grade school.  How’s it related to the social enterprise?”

A: Democracies are a system set up to drive personal and social benefits to coincide.
When what’s good for you is good for the system (in theory) everyone prospers.

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And of course, it’s the same with the social enterprise.

In the best possible world, the social enterprise drives collaboration so that:

  • what’s good for the employee (visibility, productivity, connectivity, etc) …
  • is good for the company (better knowledge base, faster work, lower turnover)…
  • is good for the customer (the right support/product, at the right time, with minimal frustration..)

That’s the real trick, of course; Setting up rewards so people do what you want them to do
[in corporatespeak: setting up rewards that lead to productive collaboration and knowledge transfer…]

And that means setting up to reward people who contribute value, not just commentary.

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So: How do you get your messaging right?

… how do you convince people to try collaboration, and to stick with it?

I spend my days working with companies doing social media.  The successful ones know the following about messaging:

Sincerity matters.  People can sense insincerity a mile away, even on the internet.  And they *hate* it. (3)

  • Personality matters: Does your brand personality make sense? Does it match other company personalities?
  • Content matters.  Content is king (or queen!) – people come to your site looking for information and deals – not to see the new storefront.
  • Consistency matters: Get in a rhythm, get content out the door.
  • Don’t Oversell: The only thing worse than a company with a once-in-a-blue-moon social profile is the kind that posts 3, 4, 10 times a day.
  • Reward your fans (this one’s obvious)

Point is: When you market internal collaboration to your employees, your messaging should have the same characteristics as a good social media campaign.

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Companies (like Salesforce) that move to internal collaboration are good at the following:

They ensure users get something vital from the system. This is the most important, so I’ll say it again in red. THEY ENSURE THE SYSTEM CREATES VALUE. You can do everything else wrong and still succeed (sometimes), but you have to get this right.  No value = no use. Moving on:

  • They reward voluntary participation - punishing non-participation  just makes people resent the system
  • They consistently, sincerely encourage collaboration – across the org chart, and especially top-down.  Marc Benioff posts to Chatter (Salesforce’s internal collaboration tool), answers questions during his quarterly briefings, on Chatter – and recently rewarded the most prolific Chatter users by inviting them to one of his upper-management offsites.
  • … which of course, also illustrates the importance of rewarding the behavior you want to encourage.
    Note: if you’re encouraging public collaboration, public rewards are definitely the way to go.
  • They don’t oversell social collaboration as the fix-everything solution. Even Benioff doesn’t say social will fix everything. Frankly, your company needs to be running strong for this to work in the first place… (4)
  • They ensure collaboration creates value not duplicated elsewhere. (I’ll say it again..) If you encourage Chatter use (for example) and require everything be double-checked on email, people will never collaborate online.
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The Bottom Line

Yes, internal collaboration is scary.  People have legitimate reasons for concern – and not just the one I mention – but there are ways to pull even the reluctant into the system.  And if you’ve set it up right, messaged correctly internally, and have the right expectations, you can make the social enterprise work for you.

So? Check your messaging. Recognize and reward contribution. Reassure people who’re worried.  And do keep it fun :)

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(1) I do work for Salesforce, of course, so I spend a lot of time talking about Salesfore anyway… ;)

(2) I did just sit in on a different briefing with a fast-moving web company run by a guy in his 70′s.  Perception ain’t necessarily reality…

(3) There’s a whole different blog post (about insincerity) in there, but another time..

(4) http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-monitoring/70-of-companies-ignore-customer-complaints-on-twitter/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Posted in Culture, Incentives, Knowledge, Networking, Philosophy, psychology.

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Social Media: 3 Steps To Findability

“My manager wants me to start Tweeting.  A lot.” She sighs, “And I was like, I already have a day job…!”

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. Or the second.  Or the tenth.  One (unforseen) effect of working in Social Media is that people talk to you about social.  Randomly. A lot. (and I love it :) *

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Social Footprint: Everyone’s Doing It

There’s any number of good reasons you’d want a social footprint, even if you personally aren’t into posting online; you might want to boost sales, do customer support, talk to other people in your industry, increase your influence and reach, understand the market… And then, of course, there’s the unspoken: everyone else is doing it.

It’s the snowball effect: everyone’s on Facebook because everyone else is on Facebook.  Everyone is reading Harry Potter because everyone else is reading Harry Potter. (Or is on foursquare.  Or has the flu, I guess.  But I digress.)

Bottom line: You now have to have a social footprint because you need to be findable, professionally. It’s like a suit jacket – just have to have one. You need to be seen to participate.

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OK, but I also have a real life

If you’re not participating, you’re invisible – but not everyone’s up for creating content in Twitter-sized bites (or in Facebook-sized ones, or in blog sizes, or whatever). Or maybe you don’t have the time to be Hugh MacLeod.  You need an easy way to participate.

So how do you become visible without giving up your life in the process? I present to you:

3 steps to findability

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1. KISS

About.me is awesome. As is a personal website. As is your email address. And Twitter, and Foursquare, and Quora, and your work address, and Orkut, and Myspace, and …..  Give people one (or two) ways to find you.  Link out to the rest. If you keep it simple it’s easier for you to maintain, and you don’t vomit your solipsism on anyone else. Simple is better. People will love you for it. You will look put together**

In general it’s better to point people to one or two places, and link out from there. Saves effort, makes it easy to find you, and ultimately gives you more time for canoeing (or whatever it is you do in your spare time!)…

For example, I’m a fan of Matthew Thomson’s profile (VP, Platform, Klout). It’s simple, links out to everything else, and isn’t too terribly specific (it’ll take a long time to become outdated).

Goal: Keep it simple.

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2. One Name To Rule Them All  (Or Two..)***

There’s no good way to hide your personal identity online.  Even if you have two accounts for everything, you’ll eventually wind up working with a friend (or befriending a colleague), and all your bipolar posting goes out the window. They’ll know it’s you.

Your goal, therefore, is to make sure that your professional and personal identities are clearly defined. Don’t try to keep either of them divorced from you – just from each other.

To that end, use one handle for everything professional (like “lningram”), and use other names for anything that isn’t directly professional.
In general, you’ll want your Twitter/About.me/Quora/blog/etc linked together, and Facebook/XBox/porn/etc separate (or locked down). Don’t autopost your professional Twitter to your personal Facebook.  Or the reverse.

I know a number of professionals that have done this successfully; the best I’ve met to date is a DJ with an entirely separate professional life (or vice-versa) – unfindable unless he tells you one handle, or the other.  He freely admits to both – it’s just really difficult to run into one while searching for the other.

Goal: a search for “myProfessionalHandle” brings up only the suit-and-tie.

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3. That meme.  Spread it.

If your reason for creating a social profile is to be findable, contactible, and associated with your (professional) interests, find an easy way to funnel high-quality interest-specific content through Twitter. Or through Facebook, or wherever. There are lots of ways to do it, easiest is:

  • Set up a web reader (like Google reader) to follow well-known authors and content creators.
  • Set up an automatic posting agent (like coTweet) to automatically post a certain number of articles/day, from that readers’ feed to the web.

… toss in a post when you think of it or when you run across something intriguing, make sure any @messages or DMs go to an email inbox you actually check, and you’re good to go. Instant footprint.

Note: This doesn’t take the place of serious participation. It won’t jack up your influence scores.  What it will do is establish you as a bona-fide live, existing person (mostly), someone who (in theory) knows what’s going on in the industry. You’ll have a footprint.  You’ll be searchable (huzzah). You’ll be associated, online, with the stuff you do for a living.

Don’t forget to check back every now and then to be sure it’s working. And I do of course recommend actually reading the articles occasionally.

Goal: They look for you on Twitter (or on Google) and they find you, associated with the stuff they’d hire you to work on.

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… And a warning:

You should not introduce yourself as a content creator unless you’re planning to create content, consistently.  This will backfire: generally you’ll look worse than if you’d never started.

Same goes for halfhearted content creation.

Consistency is key in social media.  If you set yourself up as (primarily) a content creator, you have a pact with your readers – anyone you start to accrue as a follower – that you’ll keep creating content at the same rate at which you began. On the other hand, if you set yourself up to be a content funnel, and succeed, it’s easy later to experiment – successfully – with content creation.

This is one place where it’s genuinely (marginally) better not to get started, than to try and fail (say, publicly, by running out of steam).

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Fait Accompli

… so there it is:

- Keep it Simple

- One professional handle, only used for professional activities

- Automatically promote industry-specific content

This will not make you a social media master (man, I wish).  It will, however, put you on the map, and get your boss off your back – so you can get back to your real life (or whatever your psychologist’s calling it these days…)

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* … and I do like talking about social, or I wouldn’t have the job. Or the business card. So keep it coming! :)

** like a good pair of heels. you stand above the crowd and look good.  Gentlemen, maybe a good shave is the right example. Dunno :)

*** aka, I Was A Tolkien Nerd In Grade School

Posted in Career, Control, corporate, Networking, Social Media, Social Networking, Software, Technology.

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