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.
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.
As you probably know by now, AdWeek’s Brian Morrissey curates a constantly changing list of the “most interesting” ad industry voices on Twitter. (Disclosure, I’ve been on it since the beginning.) Anyway, according to AdWeek’s first post on the topic, the point is to make some sense of the noise and reward those generating the signal with inclusion on the AdWeek 25.
Obviously it’s a qualitative judgment. According to the blog posts that accompany the list each week, the roster celebrates those who offer interesting creative perspectives, thought provoking posts, and ad-related Tweets that make you laugh. Conversely, it discharges people for Foursquare check-ins, sucking up to clients and any use of emoticons.
Who knows what any of this means, other than the fact that AdWeek decides whether or not your tweets make you worthy. It may or may not have anything to do with real influence as there’s no analysis of RT’s, followers, or overall Twitter reach.
This week I had an interesting conversation with John Winsor about gaming the system when it came to followers. (We all know people who do that, particularly celebrities and apparently authors who need the numbers to satisfy publisher demands.) But John suggested you can better determine whether or not someone games the system or has real followers by how many lists they’re on in relation to how many followers they have. Lists were announced to great fanfare a year ago, but we don’t hear that much about them anymore.
I asked some of Twitter’s early thought leaders — Laura Fitton, Jason Keath, Jason Falls, and Jonathan Fields among others – whether they thought list ratios was a metric that mattered. Most suggested it’s just one of many ways to analyze influence. You can read Jonathan’s thoughtful response below.
While still a very rough-around-the-edges measure, both number of times listed and list to follower ratio are better indicators of genuine influence than outright follower counts. Many people follow others simply as (1) a reciprocity play to get their follower counts up, even though they have little interest in the person being followed, or (2) because Twitter’s suggestion engine recommends them. That can jack up follower counts without reference to genuine interest and give a very skewed picture of both interest and influence.
With lists, you have people going the extra mile to say “I value you enough to proactively add you to my special list and see what you’re up to,” I’ve also noticed something interesting about follower to listed ratios. They can help you flag people who are gaming their follower counts or who in some way have benefitted from inorganic growth strategies.
I use lists to cull the people I really want to pay attention to versus those I simply follow. I presume others do the same. For that reason, the listed to follower ratio probably does tell you something about how valued someone is by their followers. Whether they have 2,000 or 200,000.
Being a numbers geek, I thought I’d take a look at AdWeek’s top 25 and do a quick analysis of what percentage of followers also added them to a list. They were all way above Ashton Kutcher’s pathetic 1.0 percent. And nearly half had a better number than Chris Brogan’s respectable (especially given his many followers) 9.2 percent. Take a look.
Are you surprised? What’s your ratio? Do you think it matters?
Other metrics of interest:
Imagine you’re a retailer. You plan on reducing the price of women’s sweaters by 40 percent or more as part of an upcoming sale. Normally you’d run ads in your major urban daily.
This time, however you take a different approach. You add a new landing page on your current website with 10 of the sweaters front and center. Each has a tweet button assigned to it with the promise that the more mentions a particular sweater gets on Twitter, the more its price will drop. You alert customers, fans and followers via email and social media to come and help drive the prices down, informing them that once a sweater gets 1000 tweets it will be 40 percent off.
You run the sale you were going to run anyway, but with this simple tactic you get a whole lot of “free” word of mouth advertising and social chatter, not to mention a quick sense of which items your customers are most interested in. Better yet, you may have even convinced them that it was their collective power that generated the lower price.
Your customers benefit, too. They enjoy influence (or the illusion thereof); an opportunity to contribute to the larger community of shoppers; and a chance to interact with a brand they now credit with including them in the process.
So how should we label this mini case study? Is it manipulation? You were going to lower the prices anyway. Is it a brilliant use of gaming dynamics? The approach inspires the crowd to play. Is it simply the new way to market in the age of social media? After all, we live in a time when everything we do should be interactive, participatory and shareable.
This week the New York Times shared another example of this approach. In San Francisco, Earth Justice, a non-profit environmental law firm is running an outdoor ad campaign asking passersby to check-in at each billboard. Every time they do, an Earth Justice donor will contribute $10.00 toward saving endangered species.
Obviously Earth Justice had already secured the donation in the form of $50,000 from an anonymous contributor. In a way it’s really no different than the matching donations that big donors often inspire. Only now, instead of asking for a financial commitment, the donor and organization are simply requesting that you spread the word via social media.
As with the sweater sale, chances are Earth Justice’s donor may have written a check anyway. But this is a smart way to promote the cause and turn that donation into visibility for the organization. Plus it gives supporters an effortless way to make their own contribution, albeit a virtual one.
At Mullen we took a similar approach over a year ago for Grain Foods Foundation with an online experience that let users create and share bread art. Every time they did, GFF donated $1.00 to Feeding America. The program succeeded not only in securing enough artwork to “raise” $50,000, it resulted in thousands of bread art avatars on Facebook and Twitter, including one from Good Morning America’s Dianne Sawyer who featured the effort on the popular morning show. In the old days a company would write a check to a charity then write a press release congratulating itself for doing so.That just doesn’t make sense anymore.
My guess is we’re going to see more and more of this approach. Why would a marketer do anything any more – run a sale, make a donation, build a greener building – without first getting its community to feel as if it’s partly responsible for making it happen by tweeting, checking-in, and otherwise spreading the word?
There’s always the risk that as consumers, we may get sick of the technique. In fact, we may the ones who get gamed if brands overuse the technique or take advantage of their communities. But then again, more and more people want to participate. And this is clearly one way to make that easy.
Or do we?
Happened to stop by Old Spice’s Twitter page today and was surprised (or maybe not) to see that Old Spice had tweeted all of four times in the month of October. In fact, in the 92 days that have passed since the big social media event of the summer came to an end on July 15, Old Spice has posted all of 44 times. That’s 44 times in 92 days.
Instead Old Spice has focused its social media efforts on Facebook, where questions like “What’s fresher than freshishness?” routinely generate well over 1000 likes and just as many comments. Don’t ask me why. Social media is filled with mysteries like that one.
As for Twitter, it appears that Old Spice has found that it could get away using the platform in the old fashioned way — as an advertising medium. Old Spice simply used Twitter to call attention to its videos. They launched a campaign with a huge explosion, poured lots of fuel on it for a few days, and let it fizzle out. That’s the antithesis of how brands like Zappos, Best Buy, Ford, and Whole Foods use Twitter, but it was an effective strategy.
Still, Old Spice’s quick abandonment of Twitter raises some interesting questions.
Can a brand simply use Twitter in the same way it uses paid media?
You turn it on, crank it up, achieve some reach, accomplish your goals and call it a day. In that way it’s really no different from any campaign with a paid media buy. Presuming you have content and an idea big enough to generate attention. If you do, it can be a heck of a lot less expensive than paying for attention.
Is Old Spice missing a much bigger opportunity?
Hello Ladies managed to attract nearly 120,000 Twitter followers overnight. It seems a waste not to engage with those 120,000 followers an ongoing basis. Chances are they’re not the same people who are paying attention on Facebook. And even if there is some duplication why not leverage both social platforms?
How and where do people want to engage with a brand?
Perhaps certain brands just aren’t conducive to the day in and day out engagement that defines Twitter. Media companies, airlines, service brands, retailers with lots of stuff to sell have plenty of reasons to interact with an interested audience that wants constant information, real time access and quick responses. But Twitter calls for a brand to be present, attentive and willing to interact. Facebook doesn’t really. The two social networks can each accommodate very different conversation strategies.
Is Facebook a better place for a brand to connect with fans?
Or is it just an easier place to post content because less interaction is required? For me there are huge differences between Twitter and Facebook. The former is a place where the exchange allows for a productive back and forth, genuine conversation, and, of course, customer service. Facebook on the other hand tends to be a place to post something and simply solicit group reaction or individual comments.
Curious what you think? Should Old Spice be more active on Twitter, or wait until they have another gimmick for which it’s the ideal activation medium?