I’m standing at the counter in Nordstrom’s when my iPhone beeps. The person ringing (do we even say that anymore) up my purchase says, “Hey, you got an iPhone? I got an iPhone. What apps do you use?”
Anxious to be on my way and not wanting to get all that conversational I answer, “Mostly just Twitter,” figuring maybe that’ll end the conversation.
Instead he says, “Hey, I’m on Twitter. Ever use TwitPic?”
“Great, if you want, I’ll TwitPic your favorite brand of shirts when they come in and DM them to you so you can get first pick.”
“Really?” (Now I’m less anxious to skedaddle.)
“Sure, follow me. I’m @NordstromDave.”
We finish up the transaction and I leave figuring the worse that can happen is I get spammed a few times in which case I’ll just block @NordstromDave. (You know how sales guys can be.)
Anyway, I forget all about @NordstromDave. But a couple of weeks later, as promised, he sends me a DM and a half a dozen pictures of perfectly presented Robert Graham shirts, the cuffs turned up and the collars open to reveal the piping. One strikes my fancy. I DM back to Dave, confirm my size, along with my Amex number and 24 hours later there’s a box on my back porch – delivered overnight on Nordstroms’ dime I might add – with my new shirt.
Now this is customer service. I didn’t have to drive 20 minutes to the mall, didn’t have to look for a parking space, didn’t have to poke around a department store,
No doubt lots of brands and marketers are harnessing the power of their employees and leveraging the social tools available to us all. Best Buy and Zappos, in fact, have practically institutionalized it.
But there are still companies asking whether or not to let their employees use social media at all during the workday. Instead they should be asking how to liberate their most socially savvy staff to engage with customers and clients or even leverage their own communities to spread positive news and drive traffic.
@NordstromDave is doing his thing on his own. I got the sense that Nordstrom has no idea he’s even doing it. But if they’re paying attention they’ll take the idea, turn it into a corporate program and free any and all of their sales staff to better serve customers, build up their own personal networks (OK, I admit that this is a potential downside as a sales person could attempt to bring customers with him when he leaves, though a well-thought out policy could prevent that), and be more valuable to the organization.
My guess is that lots of retailers will find the new technologies that automate push messaging that customers can opt in to.
But I think it’s even better the more personal you can actually make service. A socially inclined employee with a smart phone, a Twitter account and willingness to use it intelligently and respectfully is a pretty good place to start.
What’s your company doing to liberate its socially savvy employees?
Apparently I’m not the only one to be impressed by @NordstromDave. None other than David Meerman Scott, best-selling author, speaker, social media advocate, posted a piece on his experience with @NordstromDave just this week. In fact his post inspired me to put this one up once and for all. I’ve used it frequently in presentations but never got around to adding it here.
I had a great conversation with a client today who willingly agreed to undertake the development of a new digital platform without knowing what it would be. (She knows what she wants to accomplish, but not how to get there.) So we’re hoping to embark on a truly iterative journey: get our initial strategy, early ideas and preliminary prototypes online and in front of users as quickly as possible in hopes of learning what works, letting users guide us, and receiving feedback in as close to real time as possible.
It’s not typically an ad agency approach to things — more how a software developer might develop — but with a service/platform/utility that depends on users using it the process makes a lot of sense.
A few minutes ago I read a short interview with Ricky Gervais in the April issue of the Harvard Business Review (of all places). One question probed at Gervais’s reputation for complete and total control — the dream of many creative people (presumably those who deserve it, though more often than not they don’t) but one that rarely comes true in a collaborative business such as advertising or entertainment for that matter.
Gervais: “I am a complete fascist and you should be in art. I don’t think I’m the best producer or director or actor in the world, but I know how I want it done. I don’t try to please anyone but myself. And if people like what I do, fantastic.”
He goes on to explain that if you want things lots of people like, chances are no one will love them. To his credit, Gervais would rather move a million people than wash over 10 million.
Collaboration versus control. So are these two approaches contradictory? Can you listen to consumers and users and still have Gervais-like authority? What do you think? Is there a right time for both? Is it the difference between interactive and advertising? Utility and message? Platform and content? How about you? Would you rather collaborate or be like Ricky?
Go ahead. You can take either approach in the comments below.
It’s hard to believe that it was only five years ago today that Twitter went live with Jack Dorsey’s “inviting co-workers.”
In that brief time not only has Twitter grown in leaps and bounds — 140 million tweets a day, up from 50 million a year ago — it’s changed the entire media landscape.
Today, Twitter’s cultural influence – it breaks news, connects celebrities to their fans, identifies trends and starts conversations – has garnered the attention of thousands of brands, become an essential distribution channel for every media channel in the world that has a digital presence, and in the process attracted well over 200 million new users.
While there are plenty of long-time users who miss the days of the smaller community and the intimate, though still public, conversations that took place on Twitter a few years ago, Twitter’s most loyal participants (22 percent of users account for 90 percent of all Tweets) continue to praise the remarkable value inherent in those 140 character updates.
I’ve written enthusiastically about Twitter for a long time now. But even today I still continue to marvel at its potential. Some thoughts on how it continues to deliver.
Twitter connects you to incredibly smart people you might never meet otherwise
Critics talk a lot about weak ties and their limited value. But I can make a list of 30 or 40 inspiring, challenging, engaging individuals from all over the world, who have become friends, sources of great content, and connectors to other people worth knowing and learning from. They’ve joined me at workshops and panels. They’ve introduced me to prospective clients. In some cases they’ve even become clients. I doubt I’d have met any of them, virtually or in person, if not for Twitter. Truly there is no easier way anywhere to make an introduction, start a conversation, or even ask a favor.
It lets you customize a personal editorial board
The New York Times still has good content, but its editors can’t possibly do as good a job as my Twitter lists at filtering content that’s relevant to me. It only takes a couple of months to determine great sources of content and links and to organize them according to subject. Better yet, as you do the same, sharing content you think others will find interesting, your own followers learn what matters to you and become even more efficient and focused in what they share back. It makes the line, “if there’s news that’s important to me it will find me,” actually true.
It helps you test out prospective employees
In the last year and a half, I’ve hired four people whom I met on Twitter. The platform offers a way to question, challenge and engage with people in a setting that’s actually less pretentious or forced than the traditional interview. You can get a sense of the speed at which someone reacts, their comfort at initiating conversation, evidence of their experience and a sense of how others respond to them. Granted Twitter itself is an artificial environment compared to the real life interaction of a business setting, but you get to see things play out over time, which is something you can’t do in a one-hour interview.
It inspires serendipitous learning and discovery
You click on a link from someone who knows your interests. It leads you to a blog post by a writer of whom you’ve never heard. Next thing you know you’ve discovered a library of content that entices you further. Maybe it’s about emerging trends, or mobile technology, or design thinking, or organizational change or the role of improvisation in creativity. Maybe it’s just an insight about a new platform or social network. Either way, you’ve had your mind opened to something new that inevitably inspires your own content.
A couple of months ago, for a blog post I never got around to, I asked a few people I actually met on Twitter what the platform meant to them. Here are their answers.
Deeper relationships: Bob Knorpp, the Beancast
The biggest surprise for me in using Twitter is the depth of the relationships I continually find here, albeit, for real friendships to blossom the conversation usually migrates to chat, Facebook or even my show (The BeanCast). However, it’s Twitter where I am making the contacts, meeting folks, networking and making lasting connections. You wouldn’t think 140 character posts would be enough, but it seems to be exactly the right length for deciding if someone is worth getting to know. Bob Knorpp, The Beancast
A gateway for good stuff: Mel Exon, BBH and BBH Labs
The speed and breadth of thinking on Twitter remain a wonder. We treat Twitter like a test bed on crack, trying stuff out, getting our thinking appraised and improved. Personally, I’m helped and inspired daily. As for the superficial lack of depth people (still) complain of, when you look harder it’s patently rubbish. Un-follow the people who don’t make you think, make you smile, challenge you. Twitter is a gateway to good stuff; an engine made of people, with a ton of serendipity thrown in for good measure. Whenever it starts to feel like an echo chamber, I try to remember I built the walls myself. Time to follow some people from different industries, countries and cultures; mix it up a bit. Mel Exon, BBH Labs
A personalized discovery engine: Patricia McDonald
For me, Twitter is the ultimate in serendipity. It’s achieves, through a simple peer to peer value exchange, what it would take a highly complex algorithm to deliver and one that no search engine has yet cracked; Twitter consistently delivers content I am highly likely to be interested in but don’t yet know about. It’s a kind of highly personalized discovery engine. Patricia McDonald, CHI and Partners
The power to achieve, create and connect: Erik Proulx, creator of Lemonade
I wouldn’t have met 70 percent of the new people in my life who, over the last two years, have become valuable friends and business associates. Lemonade the Movie would never have come to be. I wouldn’t have raised $45,000 so for far from 1400 donors who’ve contributed to the making of Lemonade Detroit. And I would never have re-connected with my long lost step brother who I hadn’t seen for for more than 10 years. Erik Proulx, filmmaker
An incentive to read more: Len Kendall, co-creator of the 3six5 Project
Twitter forces me to read more. I’ve gotten into the habit of finding interesting links for people to read each day. Before Twitter I read online content in a somewhat passive state. Now that I’m putting my weight behind articles I’m sharing on Twitter, I want to make sure I understand and support the thoughts of those I’m passing along to others. Len Kendall, 3six5 Project
An introduction to new ideas: Thas Naseemuddeen
There are some incredible bits lurking around the interwebs– funny Tumblr blogs, beautiful videos, innovative google experiments, things that are helpful to my (day) job, and things that are just plain inspiring (even if I’m not entirely sure how/why in the moment). Those 140 characters are an introduction–whether to an idea, an actual thing, a meme or even a person. Rarely a day goes by that I see something via twitter that doesn’t surprise me or make me smile–even on the worst of days. Thas Naseemuddeen
A great way to start the day: Jonathan Fields, author/blogger
I start nearly every day on twitter with “Morning, friends. Who can I help today?” I’ve been doing it for over a year. Many times the asks are silly ones, like “do my laundry” or “bring me a cup of coffee.” But, then there are people who need genuine help, introductions, funds, advice, someone to listen or access to my tribes. When their request resonates, I do what I can do help. I’ve given all of the above (except the laundry and coffee) many times over.
But, truth is, the daily ritual helps me more than it helps the person who asks. It sets the tone for each day, starting from a place of proactively looking for ways to give, rather than take. And that tone often flows into everything that comes next. Funny enough, I occasionally end up feeling guilty, because I end up benefiting as much as the person I’ve helped. Net-net, I guess that’s not such a bad thing. Jonathan Fields, author/blogger
Since the launch of Twitter, we’ve welcomed the arrival of Tumblr, Posterous, Foursquare, Quora, Instagram, GroupMe and dozens of other new platforms. But for me, none of them yet rival what Twitter offers.
By now you may have seen this video from PHD, an Omnicom Media Group company. Apparently it was made for a conference to “stimulate discussion within the industry.”
Wow. Is it possible that there is an industry conference in our industry where people don’t already know that the world of media has changed, that we have 2 billion new participants in the media landscape, that engagement is the new way to connect and that interruptive messages are a thing of the past?
Why then would someone in our own business want to create a film that is so filled with self-hatred? Are we really ashamed of what we do? There have been plenty of examples of videos and parodies that point out some of the absurdities of our business and the people in it. But at least the good ones (see below) have a sense of humor.
What’s wrong with PHD’s video is that it’s so filled with venom, so contrived and so untrue. Yes we live in an age of social and participation, but people, especially kids, still love advertising. Look no further than VW’s Darth Vader spot, virtually any Apple TV campaign or our own recent FAGE spot (see the comments.)
Yes, a brand that doesn’t invite consumers to collaborate risks everything from attention to loyalty, but there are dozens of visible examples, from Old Spice to Burberry. It’s not like we need a screen filled with phony anger from 12-year-olds to tell us.
And finally, even though PHD is right that consumers will take things into their own hands and create anti-brand content (I’ve done it myself, though with an intent to be constructive), more often than not it will be for a valid reason.
PHD claims they’ve left the video up on YouTube because they value the conversation it’s stimulated, including criticism. I suppose that’s commendable. And they’re not wrong in suggesting there are flaws in aspects of how our industry creates content and does or doesn’t engage with the new consumer.
I just think if they’re attempting to say that they understand the new media frontier, the future video is an odd way to say it.
Cats work better for me.
People keep asking me what my one takeaway is from time spent in Austin. I imagine they’re looking for some golden nugget of information that I may have gleaned from the conference — something to enlighten us all. But there really isn’t one. Unless it’s this: learn something new every day. Preferably about a subject you may have never given any thought to at all. Like cargo containers.
If you’ve never delved into the world of cargo containers before you will be surprised at their impact on our economy and environment. Each ship that carries them puts out more emission particles each year than 50 million cars. Ninety percent of the world’s goods, from apparel to raw materials to agricultural products are shipped in cargo containers. Virtually all of the containers that leave U.S. ports for their voyage back to Asia depart empty. Meanwhile only 10 percent of U.S. companies export anything. That’s a huge opportunity.
Slow the speed of a ship carrying cargo containers from 25 knots to 19 knots and you save $150,000 a day. Eliminate Black Friday and you can slow down an awful lot of those boats.
So, you know what the solution is? Social media: a network that connects haulers, shippers, consumer and cargo containers. If consumers could have more say in what goods they wanted, where they wanted them and when they wanted (or needed) their arrival, it could have a significant affect on the environment. If the newest cargo containers — the kind that fold from 20 feet to 19 inches — could check in with each other, they could reduce the space they need on ships should they have to go back empty. (The new containers need to snap together.) And if non-exporting companies had more access to the old empty containers, perhaps they’d consider exporting.
Learning stuff like this may not change your life, your business or your way of working. But it certainly opens your mind to new ways of thinking and connecting ideas. Consider that you might actually have more of a positive impact on the environment by delaying the purchase of a new iPad (allowing it to be shipped more slowly) than by lowering your thermostat. Finally you begin to see new potential in the tools you work with every day.
What did you learn today?