The Rise of Social Commerce

Last week I had the pleasure of attending The Altimeter Group’s first conference, The Rise of Social Commerce, in Palo Alto, California. This was an amazing event with an outstanding line up of industry leaders and innovators who are changing the way we make buying decisions online.

As I developed and continually updated the conference’s website leading up to the event, I knew it would be a heck of a time, and it did not disappoint. Over on the Proof Branding blog I shared daily video recaps with key-takeaways and actionable items, Below is a summary of what I took away from my adventure on the west coast…

Episode 1: Power to the Consumer

In the video below, I introduce The Rise of Social Commerce and pose the following three questions:

1) How are big businesses using social media to their advantage?

2) How does social media redefine “marketing”?

3) How does social media change (and improve) the customer “experience”?

Episode 2: Are You Enhancing the Customer Experience?

In the video below I summarize three key takeaways from day one of The Rise of Social Commerce.

1) Social media allows businesses to not only provide GOOD customer service, but to DELIGHT customers and create life-long relationships. Use the tools in front of you to your advantage, and focus first on building trust and earning respect well before ever trying to push a sale.

2) Go where your customers are. It seems self explanatory but it is often forgotten. Don’t walk into the board room and say “We need to be on Twitter” – instead, think about where your customers are, listen to them, THEN plan a strategy that takes you where you’re customers live online.

3) Dell is introducing a ‘Social Media Command Center‘ which will essentially act as a 24/7 outbound call center – a force of people who are 100% committed to genuine (proactive) social media engagement. This is a trend I believe will really catch on in the next 1-2 years as companies realize that to be most effective, social media marketing needs to be timely and engaging.

Episode 3: Think Big. Start Small. Grow Fast.

In this video I wrap up the second and final day of The Rise of Social Commerce with four takeaways.

1) Less is more. Self explanatory but again, often neglected. Don’t make it complicated for your customers to navigate your site and complete transactions. Simple and clear navigation with obvious calls to action is the way to go. Look at your own website and count the number of clicks it takes for people to get in touch with you, to see your work, to get back to the home page. For us at Proof, everything is one (maybe two) clicks away.

2) Embrace (and use) negative feedback. Negative feedback can actually be a very positive thing. It shows that you, as a company, are willing to accept now only the love and praise, but the constructive criticism of your products and services. All of this adds to the credibility that you aren’t “afraid” to put your product out there – because you believe in it. Also, when faced with negative feedback, think about how you can spin it and transform the negative into a positive experience for your customer.

3) Pay attention to the customer’s EMOTIONAL experience when they visit your website. Think about how you can create and tap into the feeling a customer and site visitor should get when clicking through the pages of their site. Create calls to action that catch them during those ‘emotional’ moments that can lead to profitable transactions.

4) Think big. Start small. Grow fast. Just ask Nicole Crimaldi, this is something I’ve talked about with her time and time again – and it’s important to remember for us idea-crazy, career ADD people. Big ideas are great, but don’t start huge – think realistically and start small, but most importantly, don’t hesitate to hit the ground running and grow rapidly.

These posts can be seen in their original entirety over on the Proof Branding blog with the following links:

Popping the Social Media Bubble

Recently, Courtney Dial, the founder of Pizzazzerie, wrote a great piece on Arment Dietrich’s F.A.D.S. titled “Why is Generation Y Not on Twitter“. The title alone had me thinking because, it seems like the vast majority of you out there seem to think that, well, everyone is participating in Social Media these days.

They’re not.

You and I are in the minority. The active Millennials on Twitter still represent the ‘early adopter’ phase of an entire generation. Don’t believe me? A recent study by Pingdom present some pretty surprising statistics. In short, you and I as twenty-somethings are not, at all, the majorty of the population on the Social Web.

Continue reading

Mashable: A Model for Success or Selling Out?

Mashable | All That's New on the WebAn interesting conversation amongst some friends and acquaintances took place yesterday on Twitter in which we were discussing the value of the popular Social Media “news” site Mashable. Maybe you read Mashable, maybe you don’t, Maybe you love it, or maybe you can’t stand their intertwining of Social Media news, PR reports, and celebrity gossip. Maybe you think Mr. Cashmore is a sexy dude, or maybe you’d label him as a total d-bag.  To each his own.

Let’s face it, we all think we are or want to be “right” – even if we won’t admit it, even if we’re the most open minded person on earth, our own opinion still seems more “right” most of the time, because, well, it is our own. You can argue all day long that you love or hate Mashable – but ultimately there’s going to be some people who think it’s crap and some who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. There is no right or wrong.

Evolution is inevitable – things change, topics shift, markets and demographics vary. Mashable may be on the decline for people who used to rely on it as a valuable source of online marketing information – but for the millions of other people who want to keep tabs on Ashton Kuther’s Twitter following, Mashable is happy to oblige. Somewhere along the way the Mashable crew saw an opportunity to reach new heights, and they have.

What else is Mashable doing? As David Spinks so aptly put during this conversation – Mashable is doing wonders at bridging the gap between our tight-knit community of bloggers and Social Media gurus and the rest of the general population. We’re quick to forget there is a whole world out there of people who could care less about blogging and Twitter, but may want to know about the latest Apple release or Google Announcement. A platform like Mashable gives “our” community and the rest of the online demographic a place to come together, for better or for worse.

I hope that’s what this blog becomes – a place for online gurus and  ‘everyday Internet users’ to come together and chat about life, careers, Social Media, whatever. I don’t want to segment myself too closely to one specific niche or group. My writing, and the writing of most of you out there, can and does apply to a much wider audience than you think. It’s just about catching the attention of those who would otherwise overlook your brilliance.

Mashable may be totally useless. You may never read a single post they publish again in you’re life. But when you don’t – someone else will. We’re not going to all find value in the same things. And that’s OK – that’s what makes reading and writing so much fun – because there’s SO much out there, and such a wide spectrum of information to consume and enjoy. At the heart of it all, you should be writing about what you love, about what interests you – and if someone else, even if it’s only one out of a hundred, finds value in what you write – isn’t that enough? Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Invest for Success: 15 Steps to Effective Social Media Marketing and Better Blogging

Blog Marketing

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the two-day MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer in Chicago. Not only did I walk away with some new friends, I took with me a plethora of  new ideas and actionable items from the best of the best in the world of blogging and Social Media.

The common theme? Your blog and Social Media presence is an INVESTMENT – An investment that takes patience and perseverance to see real success. It’s also an investment with goals and benchmarks that will continually adapt and change.

In a market that is constantly evolving, it’s important (although sometimes difficult) to not only maintain a steady pace, but to stay one step ahead of the rest. Here are 15 ideas that I took away and will implement/continue to implement in what I do (and you should too).

(1) Build credibility before you sell Social Media

Whether your marketing your blog or your business – your Social Media goal must include a value proposition to your followers, friends, and connections. If you aren’t sharing anything of value, why bother sharing anything at all? Through becoming a resource of information, whatever your niche may be, you build credibility and validity – giving people a reason to care about what you have to say.

(2) Join the RIGHT conversations at the RIGHT time

What is the single most important practice in the world of Social Media? LISTENING. To be followed closely by ACTION. Paying attention to your surroundings, listening to conversations, and then jumping into those conversations at the right time is how you establish new connections, generate leads, and build your overall community. Just as listening is nothing without action, your actions will miss the mark if you aren’t listening.

(3) Test the unusual

Social Media isn’t safe, it isn’t comfortable – it’s unpredictable and constantly changing. Don’t fight the change, embrace it and add to it. The best way to keep both yourself and your audience invested and interested is to push boundaries, step out of your comfort zone, and do some things you’ve never done before. Be bold, be innovative, be unique, and above all, be yourself.

(4) Use Your Community as a free Market Research Program

We talk so much about the “giving” of Social Media but it’s just as important to remember that there can be just as much “taking”. Ask questions and request feedback. Don’t talk TO your audience, talk WITH them. Tap into the power of community and use it to your advantage.

(5) Engage in online communities as a person first, as a marketer second

Don’t kid yourself, you’re going to promote yourself and the work you do both on and off-line. But think of Social Media as a conversation tool, not a direct advertising medium. Approach your audience and community as an engaging conversationalist rather than a sales rep. You’ll establish brand credibility simply by being “present” in your respective niche.

(6) Optimize all your content for search

I get asked all the time about the importance of SEO. Optimizing your site for “organic” search traffic is supremely important to the overall success and growth of your blog. The more people who find you naturally, the less you have to worry about self-promotion. Give your SEO the up-front face time it deserves and watch your community flourish naturally.

(7) Create a positive “brand experience” by establishing relationships across the social web

Throughout this blog you will hear me preach about “relationship marketing”. Relationships are the foundation of any good business. Be developing solid relationships with your audience, you create a community of brand evangelists – people who will promote and market your stuff for you. We’re much quicker to believe the opinion of our friends than a representative of the brand/blog/individual promoting themselves.

(8) When you launch a blog or twitter account, set goals, measure, iterate

Especially important for businesses, but equally important for individuals: Set goals for yourself (and be specific). If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever know how to get there? Monitor your analytics, followers, subscribers, new visitors, etc. and set benchmarks to measure success along the way.

(9) Be organized internally to effectively manage social media (and your blog) externally

If you dig through my archives you’ll see that I’ve stressed the importance of time-management, organization, and scheduling. For your blog and Social Media platform to be effective, you have to be willing to give it the time and attention it deserves. There is no “autopilot” – Effective Social Media management requires hands-on MANAGEMENT.

(10) Humanize your blog

There are a million people out there blogging about social media, marketing, Generation Y, and so on. What makes my blog (and your blog) unique is the perspective you and I bring to the table. Everything has been talked about by someone, somewhere – but what no one can do is be YOU. Be yourself, bring your own voice and attitude into your writing, and most importantly, don’t try to be someone you’re not – your audience will see right through you.

(11) Provide your community something that is personally beneficial to them

While sharing your “human side” is important, your readers (typically) aren’t coming to your blog to read about you – instead, they’re coming in hopes that you’ll provide them with something they can take away and apply to their own lives. In everything you write, no matter how personal it may be, find a way to related it to a wider audience. Apply what you’ve been through to what others might be going through. Making that personal connection is the key to effective writing.

(12) Let your members decide how they want to use ‘their’ community

Provide simple navigation, easy sharing, and CLEARLY STATED CALLS TO ACTION. Give your community the tools, provide them with options, and make it easy for them to interact and engage with your site. The fastest way to lose a member of your community is by confusing them. Provide options while maintaining the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) strategy.

(13) Be mindful of people’s time, attention, and surroundings

Are short, concise posts or longer, detailed articles more effective? There’s no clear answer here and there are pros and cons to both. Regardless, it’s important to consider your audience’s time and attention. While a shorter post may invoke more real-time response and back and forth discussion, extensive, well researched pieces may hold significant long-term value. There’s a time and place for both.

(14) Don’t get (too) caught up in the numbers

Throughout your blog’s tenure, there are going to be ups and downs, flash in the pan successes, and periods of inactivity. You’re not going to be at the top of your game 100% of the time. Don’t get down – adapt and coordinate with what your analytics and community is telling you. If you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong, there’s no shame in asking. Don’t worry about the day-to-day – instead – focus on the big picture

(15) Invest in Social Media. It’s not free

Ultimately – Social Media is an investment. It requires time, commitment, patience, sacrifice, and hard work. If you’re not willing to invest the time and effort, maybe Social Media isn’t for you. The output is measured by the input you put in. In short, you get what you give.

Remember: You do not have to be on the Social Media bandwagon just to say you are doing it. Focus on the tools that best fit your strategy and goals. It may not be for everyone but there is real value in the medium for anyone who is willing to invest the time toward it’s success.

How are you using Social Media to market your blog? Share some mistakes you’ve learned from and best practices you currently have in place.

(Photo via websuccessdiva)

The Social Media Revolution Isn’t Coming – It’s Already Here

You are being watched and you will be found

You can run, you can hide, but no matter where you go – the social media revolution will find you. Social media is changing the way we do business, the way we communicate and share ideas, and even the way we think and carry out our everyday lives. Where did you get your news from this morning? TV or your Google Reader? How did you find your job? A classified ad in the newspaper or a job posting on LinkedIn?

Many of you might have run across this video in the past few weeks – but in case you haven’t, take four minutes out of your day and give it a watch – some of the information might surprise you. More discussion after the jump.

A couple takeaways from the video:

By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers – 96% of them have joined a social network

First of all – this number is staggering. It means that virtually every single one of us have rocked out on Myspace, stalked our exes on Facebook, and dabbled in a tweet or two. So often we hear that ‘we are the future’ – Well, that future is right here, right now. We’re it. This is the future our parents always told us about. We represent the movers and shakers of the world, the innovators and thought leaders  – a rapidly evolving swarm of tech-savvy tweet-rather-than-text-rather-than-talk individuals. If a business is wondering how to connect and communicate with our demographic, look no further than the social web. We’re out there, and we’re listening.

80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. People update anywhere, anytime. Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences.

Let’s remain optimistic:  Imagine what it can mean for positive word of mouth. If you’re a small business who is just starting out and wondering how you’ll ever compete with the corporate big-wigs, turn to social media. It’s inexpensive and allows for a direction connection to your consumers.

If you leave a great impression with a client or customer, they have new and innovative communication tools at their disposal to get your name out there. Imagine perfecting a cup of coffee for someone who has 30,000 Twitter followers – who in turn tweets about how amazing your little-known shop is and how everyone should check it out. Talk about awesome PR – a positive review from a ‘trusted source’ to a huge audience and it cost you nothing!

That’s the power of social media that so many companies out there are striving to harness and use to drive their business. Mr. Qualman shares an interesting statistic: 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations – Only 14% trust advertisements. I think we can all agree that genuine feedback from a trusted source is much more influential that a random ad. Companies are taking notice, shifting the bill from traditional mediums to social media platforms and letting their audience of consumers do the selling for them.

Ultimately how do these stats make me feel? Old (and wise)

I can remember the days before Myspace and Facebook, a time when Youtube ever existed, where Napster was huge and Itunes was dissed because it wasn’t free. The funny thing? None of this was that long ago – a matter of a few years – and look at how our society has changed. Technology is the first huge shift in culture that people our age can claim ownership of. The fact that we have lived and breathed this stuff since the beginning is what allows you and me to be considered ‘experts’. Social media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

Our privacy is out the window – Erik makes a point on his blog that we should “live our online lives like mom is watching – because she probably is”. Everyone from Dunkin Donuts to the Doubletree Hotel is out there watching, listening, and observing – waiting for the right time to stage and effective approach and initiate a conversation.


The Social Media Revolution isn’t coming – it’s already here. It’s time to stop asking “how did we get here?” and start thinking about where we’re going next.