A Potential Adieu

cat-out-of-the-bag-2.jpgWell, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. I’ve accepted a position as a Senior Copywriter for a large Fortune  500 company and I’m super stoked about this opportunity.

See, landing a job as a full-time copywriter is sort of like a singer who makes it to Broadway. There are simply too few organizations who can afford a full-time position that most of us end up freelancing to make the best of it. I’ve certainly enjoyed freelancing and I’m looking forward to working with and learning from a team of top talent.

So….the question remains. What am I to do with my blog? I won’t have the time to dedicate like I did when I was freelancing. Yet, my readership is decent and I don’t want to disappoint. I’m considering continuing to post once a week or so as long as I have people who are getting value out of what I have to say. Like I said in my bio – I don’t want to be blogging just to hear myself type.

So, please, let me know your thoughts. What do you enjoy reading the most and how can I continue to serve you through this blog? Leave your answer in the comments below.  🙂

To your success,

Andrea

Run Circles Around Your Competition: How to Build a Loyal Fan Base

running-shoe.jpgAt first glance, you might consider Pacer’s, a running store in Alexandria, VA to be about the same as, say, the Foot Locker in the mall. After all, they carry similar products, market to a similar audience, and have a similar pricing structure. But Pacer’s does something truly remarkable. They have fans. Evangelists. People like me who just can’t wait to tell the world how wonderful this store is. And that is brilliant marketing.

So how is Pacer’s different? Upon purchasing a pair of running shoes, here are some of my observations:

  1. A passionate (and therefore knowledgeable) staff. Every employee of Pacers is a runner – not a minimum wage high-school kid. Why is this important? Knowledge. When I asked questions (like should I stretch before or after a run) the staff responded quickly and with authority (both). These guys know what they’re talking about. And because they love it so much, they’re happy to chat with customers about ways to shave a minute off your mile or how to train for your next big race.
  2. Overwhelmingly exceeding expectations. When I purchase shoes, I expect friendly customer service, and someone to go to the back of the store to get the shoes for me to try on. But if you want to really impress me you’ll measure my feet, watch me walk, analyze the fact that I have high arches and roll slightly inward in my stride and then pull several pairs of shoes that I can “test drive” before making a purchase (seriously, these guys are awesome). This goes back to the whole knowledgeable employees thing. When I’m impressed, I want to tell all of my friends about my amazing experience so my friend can experience the same thing.
  3. Creating a community. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is the Pacer’s fun run. 30 or so people will gather in front of the store, run several miles and then go out for a tasty beverage. There’s no charge, you simply show up. This event gets Pacer’s loyal fans interacting with the brand on a whole new level. (Plus, if you attend regularly there’s a discount which further solidifies the devotion to your brand).

It works because it’s genuine – it’s not a hackneyed “we offer outstanding customer service” slogan when really they don’t. That doesn’t work. Instead, Pacer’s has invested in their training, people and community which leads to lots of word of mouth. The funny thing is, Pacer’s does minimal advertising. Why would they need to? They’ve created a better retail experience and therefore people are talking – that’s their marketing. So how can you be outstanding? Are you and your people completely passionate about your product or service?

Related Links

Personal Attention = Great Word of Mouth by Andy Sernovitz

What Makes Good For Marketing? The Experience! by Jeff Kallay

The Art of Evangelism Web Conference by Guy Kawasaki (if you missed it, keep your eyes peeled to see if he does another one)

Social Media Overload – Is Your Brain Fried Yet?

The New Media Nouveaux Conference has been a magnificent catalyst for conversation.

nmn-toby-bloomberg-and-geoff-livingston.jpgGeoff Livingston gave an insightful introduction to new media – citing case studies from his upcoming book, Now Is Gone.

He started by mentioning the impact that social media has on today’s society. Being in the Northern Virginia area, the audience is intimately aware of the change that viral video had on the fall Senatorial campaign. George Allen was literally the front runner for the US presidential seat – however, after the “mecaca” disaster, his career is over, the Virginia senatorial race was radically changed (I know I changed my vote because of the incident), and ultimately the shift of power in Congress changed from Republican to Democrat. So yes, this stuff matters.

The main focus of Geoff’s talk was how pervasive social media is on our society and how it enforces a culture of transparency and honesty. It is an opportunity to engage your “community” (Geoff doesn’t believe in the word “audience” because it gives the perception of a one sided conversation), get immediate feedback and implement innovative business strategies immediately.

He referenced GM as the first fortune 500 blog and how the CEO responds in video format to comments posted on the blog.

Southwest airlines also demonstrates how the comments of a corporate blog can change the course of a business plan. After Southwest posted a blog about how they were planning on changing their strategy and move to assigned seating, they received over 700 comments against this change. Southwest listened to their consumers, took them seriously and created more brand loyalty because of their response.

Businesses Who Are Using New Media

new-media-nouveaux-jen-sterling.jpgThe first panel, led by Jen Sterling from Hinge (an award winning professional services branding firm) focused on the business impact of using new media.

Jill Stelfox, CEO and Cofounder of Defywire told the story of how her 13 year old son has had an influence on how her company uses new media. Defywire focuses on software and technology to keep children safe in school crises. After producing several videos on how to keep children safe (ex: how to prepare your kindergardener for their first day of school). The initial marketing strategy was to produce these videos to DVDs and distribute via mail. Instead, at the suggestion of Jill’s son, the videos were put on YouTube and as a result, Defywire has built a strong viral message that has spun new product lines and increased business.

Kim Hart from The Washington Post gave insight on how the traditional media relies on new media. Let it be known – this is straight from the horse’s mouth – the press release is dead. It does not work. Journalists are so busy, they do not have time to read a story with spin. Instead, a quick e-mail (literally a sentence or so long) with a link to a new story is the best new-media-nouveaux-business-panel.jpgway to peak this journalist’s interest. She also gave insight as to how the success of a story may not be a “traditional article on page D4 in the business section.” Now that more people are on blogs and the participation level is increasing exponentially, a company may very well have more success with a short blog post that can create viral buzz than they would in print.

Pamela Sorrensen, an active blogger on DC’s social scene showed how you can turn your passion into a profitable platform. Her blog was created after friends requested updates of her intense social life. She constantly attends parties and events, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in the area. Her blog allows her to share her pithy posts without sending individual e-mails. Now her fans come to her and her readership is such that she can earn money from advertisements.

Strategists – How to Use Social Media

new-media-nouveaux-andrea-morris1.jpgOk, so I wasn’t able to live blog this portion because I was the moderator. The panel consisted of Alice Marshall from Presto Vivace, Qui Diaz from Ogilvy PR, and Jennifer Cortner from EFX Media.

This was an interactive discussion of not only the panel, but the audience (wait – I mean community) as well. We discussed strategies for how to blog, whether or not to use Facebook or Myspace, how the government is using wikis, why del.icio.us is a great tool, how you can use videos and podcasts to promote your business, and the all important question – how to avoid burnout.

new-media-nouveaux-specialists-panel.jpgAt the end of the fast paced discussion, Success in the City founder Cynthia De Lorenzi came up with the brilliant idea of creating a regional networking event digging deeper into each social media initiative. Be sure to check the calendar at successinthecity.org to learn when these events are happening.

What’s coming Next?

So this is the big question – what’s going to happen in the future. Although no one has a crystal ball, New Media Nouveaux featured the next best thing – a panel of experts who have their collective fingers on the pulses of the social media industry.

Sean Gorman from FortiusOne is the innovator of GeoCommons, a Web 2.o tool that allows users to create interactive visual maps.

Here are his definitions of the evolution of the Web:

  • Web 1.o – Read – Brochure like websites with a one-sided point of view
  • Web 2.0 – Read & Write – People can respond to information through comments and links.
  • Web 3.0 – Read, Write & Execute – Driven by massive amounts of data. Most of this data is housed in the government level. Governments are notoriously slow in investing in technology – so this is a large roadblock to overcome. One example is how you can househunt. In web 1.0 you would view pictures online and research crime statistics, schools, and community resources on individual websites. Web 2.0 allows you to blog with individuals who live in communities and get feedback on their lifestyle. In web 3.0, Sean predicts applications that will allow you to enter all of your preferences for a community in one location. Then, the program will go out, automatically aggregate your requests and arrange the data in an intuitive manner.

new-media-nouveaux-futurists-panel.jpgHe referenced the movie Minority Report is an example of where we can look to. For example, if you walk in front of a billboard, it will create a customized campaign based on your past purchase history. Technology will be more than mobile, it will be an integral part of every person’s daily life (even more so than today).

Aaron Brazell is the Director of Technology at B5 Media and his professional blog, Technosailor is highly regarded in the industry. Aaron referenced an experience that demonstrates the influence bloggers have.

A friend ordered a laptop and realized that he made a mistake on which shipping option he chose. HP gave him the run-around and pointed him into walls and dead ends. Aaron took matters into his own hands and wrote a blog post called “HP Gives Consumer Middle Finger“. The post ended up on the front page of Digg, the negative comments from the community flooded in and as a result, Aaron’s friends issues were suddenly resolved.

In Aaron’s opinion, Web 3.0 is “becoming untethered from your computer. Right now I’m tied to a 17″ monitor. With the introduction of the iPhone (although I will never own one) it will force competitors to innovate and create new mobile devices.” He also referenced smart homes, where you can walk into a room, say “it’s cold in here” and the smart network automatically interprets and executes the function of turning up the heat.

Place your bets now – Aaron gave predictions of Sink & Swim companies to watch for.

Companies that will sink:

  • Yahoo! – especially because of their recent corporate challenges (losing their CEO)
  • Myspace – the developers are growing up and becoming more mature. The application is also too widespread with little niche value.
  • Mahalo – A search engine that harnesses the power of humans. Aaron believes this technology is “very 1998”.

Companies that will swim:

  • Facebook – especially since they just opened their application to development – new plugins are going to create an ultrarich content.
  • Concept Share – allows you to put graphic images, videos, etc. that allow you make comments and collaborate. Estimates this company will be acquired by Google.
  • Twitter – While I agree that the concept of “micro-blogging” is a new wave, I think Pounce will outpace Twitter – especially since Pounce allows you to upload files, links, images, etc.

Brian Williams is the CEO of Viget Labs, a full-service web consulting, design and consulting firm who touts clients like Brittney Spears and Kenny Chesney.

Brian pointed out how younger audiences are less concerned about privacy issues as older generations. As more data is collected on individual users (ex: Amazon.com and their recommendation system) more customization will occur.

One member of the audience (damnit – I mean community – I’ll get it eventually) posed this question – What advantage does the US have in this industry, are we a leader? Brian’s response: “We are a country built around innovation and entrepreneurship. Look at YouTube – this is a new age of kids in their garages and new applications can be built with the collaborative brainpower of few individuals. You’re not limited by resources – people who we have yet to hear from are going to be the superstars.”

new-media-nouveaux.jpgLessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this conference is how varied social media strategies can be. While a blog may be the best strategy for one company, a viral video initiative may be what works for another. It was also apparent just how new all this new media is. Even the experts are on their toes trying to keep up with the constantly changing technology.

I can’t wait for the next event, which closing keynoter Toby Bloomberg called, “one of the best social media events I’ve attended.”

I’d agree. Cheers to a great event and all the excellent panel experts.