Classic Scene for my Screenplay (someday)

19 Mar

I’m out on the deck watering plants while kids are in the bathtub, deep inside the house, and I can’t hear much.  Suddenly, Rowan appears at the front door, totally naked — dripping water and bubbles everywhere:

“MOM!!  I was yelling and yelling at you but you didn’t come!  Can you PLEASE get me out of the bath tub?!!!!!

“OK Rowie”

“GREAT!” as he runs back — through the living room, the laundry room and bathroom — back into the bath tub.

The Four (Fatal?) Flaws of Twitter and Facebook

1 Mar

Note: this article is a re-posting of my article which appeared first on Lithium.com

Lithium works with a lot of brands.  Savvy, customer-obsessed brands, on the cutting edge of social media.  We have been their social media partners for years, and over those years we have seen lots of trial and lots of success.  Lots of confusion and lots of revelation.  Brands have been feeling their way through social media and each year has had its themes.  Let’s review.

If you were in the biz then, 2007 was the era of the blog.  How to find influential bloggers?  How to keep up with the “insane volume” (ah, how quaint a notion!)  In 2008 and 2009, we saw consumer-generated media (CGM) platform proliferation.  There were LOTS of CGM sources and networks for brands to stay on top of  (MySpace, Ning and Digg-related data requests into us were numerous), with new ones popping up all the time (what’s this ‘Twitter’ thing?).  But in 2010, consumers started to converge on Twitter and Facebook and brands scooped up their social media chips and went “all in” on those numbers.  (Although to this day, one of my favorite parts of my job is demoing the Lithium SMM app, which indexes most all social media channels, and watching the shocked face of a prospective customer as they discover tons of meaty brand conversations in corners of the social web that they never knew existed!)  But even so, there have not been many requests for MySpace data this year (although I hope my friend @mjones pulls it out and resuscitates that brand!).   2010 was the year of Twitter and Facebook.

But brands are on the verge of another revelation and change is coming, I think. The brands who doubled down on Facebook and Twitter early in 2010 are starting to bump up into four pretty major limitations of those platforms.  Dare we call them the “Four Fatal Flaws of Twitter and Facebook?”  I heard these complaints from a few brands early in 2010, and am hearing them regularly from many brands now.  They are:

1)   Content Decay

A brand sets up a Twitter account and a Facebook page (or pages) and staffs them with smart, connected employees.  The customers come.  They engage with the brand and with each other.  They have great conversations – recommending products to each other or dialoging about a promotion they are really excited about, say.  Then the next random comment is posted…and the next and the next and the next.  And pretty soon those great conversations are lost – pushed down from the “top of the fold” in the time-ordered Twitter Feed and/or Facebook Wall.  So now, maybe the next day, a new customer comes to the Facebook page and wonders what product customers are recommending and they DON’T see the meaty thread that raged yesterday.  They ask the same question again. Hopefully an advocate answers again.  But it’s like “Groundhog Day”… all over again.  We will never scale by answering the same questions over and over. (See “1:1 Doesn’t Scale”, next.)

What’s more, those conversations are NOT hosted on your own site, but Twitter’s and Facebook’s.  So those conversations are not showing up in a prospective customers’ search results the way those conversations would be if they were hosted on your own site.  For one of our Lithium clients, a full 40% of inbound traffic comes from search engine links into community content.  Do you have 40% of lead traffic to ignore?  I know we don’t.  So we must solve for Content Decay.  We must keep conversations alive for customers and we need to host that content ourselves, somehow, so that we can reap the SEO (and data and relationship and scale and other…) benefits.

2)   1:1 Doesn’t Scale

Brands are realizing that they can’t staff their teams to be able to respond to EVERY brand / category / competitive mention.  They just can’t.  In 2010, many brands (wisely) migrated from departmental ownership of social media to a hub-and-spoke system – managing inbound social media mentions centrally and routing them quickly to the right people or departments within organizations – enabled with tools like Lithium SMM and Co-Tweet.  But there is a curious and wonderful phenomena that (usually) happens with brands participating in social media – the more a brand engages, the more the customers come.  If you extend yourself, you will need to keep extending yourself more and more to meet conversation demand.  (And must I remind you – this is a good thing!)  Brands try to keep up for a little while (sometimes with summer interns, sadly) but many are starting to realize that 1:1 can’t scale.   Teams should be investing in tools (like Lithium SMM) that prioritize their queues and tell them what’s most important to be paying attention to.  We don’t need a fatter firehose, but more perspective.

Finally, brands are starting to realize that nirvana is not their employees responding to 100% of mentions (an oh so 2010 metric).  Nirvana is really having YOUR CUSTOMERS jump in to conversations, positively, on your behalf.  For example, some Lithium communities have crazy super-fan advocates responding to thousands of customer inquiries per month.  In fact, GiffGaff is the fastest growing Telco in Europe which outsources 100% of its customer support to its own customers via its Lithium-powered community.  Now that’s leverage. New metrics for 2011: % of mentions coming from customers vs. coming your own employees.  Get customer engagement up!  Brands must find ways to focus their own efforts and to enable customers for the rest of it.  2011 will be the year of leverage.  Tools and metrics and solutions for unleashing your best customers as advocates and letting them help you scale.  (They’ll do it better than summer interns ever could.)

3)   Customer Data Scarcity

Facebook and Twitter are all too happy to host your most intimate conversations with your best customers.  But when it comes time to leverage those influencers, there is next to nothing in terms of data coming back from those platforms.  Most of us can’t call up Twitter and say “Can you send me my top Influencers who live in Paris who have expressed interest in Digital SLRs and who are women, as we have a product launch in Paris and I want to involve our key Influencers.”  Yeah – not going to happen.  The latest data I’ve seen coming out of Facebook is the “time of day” analysis that gives brands a graph of what time of day your Friends tend to be logged in to Facebook. So while the sushi boat of conversation is flying by at a million miles per hour, they tell us the best time to lob our post into the wind so that friends might see it. ARE YOU KIDDING???  That’s the best we can do?  Now, Facebook makes available a few more metrics than Twitter, but all would agree that both are sub par.  And better metrics for brands is clearly not a priority for either Twitter or Facebook. Brands are getting increasingly frustrated by this lack of visibility and lack of metrics because it hampers their efforts to take relationships to the next level and put advocates to use for business objectives, which brings me to…

4)   Friends and Followers – So What?

We have seen hundreds of RFPs this year stating that “the Strategic Business Objective for the effort is to attract <pick your number> Followers.” Web pages are littered with these kinds of “we’ll find you Followers!” vendors:

tweet pic.png

If 2010 was the year of gathering Friends and Followers (just ‘cuz), 2011 will be about business results – about holding social media efforts up to the same scrutiny as other business efforts.  Social Media is working its way up the corporate consciousness.  It’s there already at many companies whose CEOs have social or community-oriented initiatives as one of their top 3 strategic priorities for the year.  But it doesn’t earn that level of championship via Friends and Followers.  It gets there with words like “reduced costs by X” or “increased revenue by Y”.  We are thrilled to see big companies get serious about social media and we are happy to help each of them with the cold, hard business case.  It’s there.

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So that’s my recap of what brands are bumping up into right now as they manage their brand presence and customers online via social media – and what’s next.  Now I’m not predicting the death of Twitter or Facebook in 2011, by any means.  If customers are there, brands must be too.  But there are smarter ways to do this.  Ways that solve for the above issues and give brands more bang for their social media buck.  Twitter and Facebook will evolve…a little…maybe.  They will give us a few more metrics and a few more ways to engage our customers on their platforms.  But the real innovation will continue to come from product companies like ours that build on customer trends to help brands derive real business value.

The Jelly Drop Kids

25 Jan

It’s official.  We had our first class on Friday and the kids were SO SO excited.  I laid out the curriculum which is basically the 4 Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.  We started by naming the Company  and after many bizarre and unusual ideas like “Trainwreck” which I highly cautioned against, they voted and decided on the Jelly Drop Kids.  (Amazingly, the talented Scamper agreed to work on a logo for them so that they are totally official.  yay!)  They got started creating their PRODUCT – coloring book pages, drawn with black marker on white pages.  Their imaginations are truly remarkable.  No just dogs or bunnies.  Fiona (my daughter) drew a bird carrying a fish in the sky.  The water from the fish is dropping down onto a cliff where the water is pooled in a bowl where a coyote drinks the same water.  as he drinks, the water cascades over the cliff down into a river where bears are frolicking.  go figure.  In any case, it should be great.  I have discovered www.lulu.com, where we can upload our book and set up a storefront where people can order, as desired.  lulu.com prints the books on demand and ships them to buyers and we can have the profit flow straight to the school’s Paypal account so that they get all the proceeds.  Well, almost all the proceeds.  The kids argued convincingly that they deserve a great LAUNCH PARTY when its all live.  Let me know if you want me to reserve you tickets!

UPDATE:  We are on Amazon.com.  Oh yeah 🙂

Can Kids Start a Company? (in 6 Hours Over 6 Weeks)

7 Jan

For the last four years, I have been CEO of a startup on the fast track, which left very little time for extra-curricular parenting efforts.  In fact last year, when Fiona had an assignment to write an essay on something CRAZY that would NEVER happen, she chose to write an essay titled, “the day my mom drove for a field trip.”  yeah.  one of many low moments in the life of a working mom.

So now that my company has been acquired and someone ELSE has the daily stress that is CEO, I vowed to get more involved in the kids’ school.  Just as I made that mental commitment, I received the note in the backpack: “parents needed to teach mini-courses”.  Mini-courses are 6-week classes (1 hour per week) that parents teach on anything they want.  Fiona and Rowan begged me to volunteer.  I could do this.  Maybe?

If there is one thing I know about, its starting and running companies. So let’s see if I can get kids to start one in 6 weeks!  The idea (to make it fun):  The Coloring Book Company.  So I called the office to tell them I’d do a mini-course (see ya in a few weeks) and that’s when they told me I had to be prepared to PITCH.  huh?

I have pitched the world’s premier VCs when the stakes were as high as they could be.  I have spoken to audiences of hundreds of CEOs and CMOs.  But pitching to elementary school kids and asking them to pick my mini-course?  I WAS TERRIFIED.  Sam thought it was adorable (great).

I was told that other parents dressed in costumes and gave out candy to have kids pick them.  Low blow. I couldn’t go there.  That’s just not me.  So I went the challenge angle:

“I started a company and I LOVE running a company.  But, you know what?  I’m around a lot of grown ups and grown-ups say that kids can’t start companies!” (thank god they got it right away and jumped up, booing and screaming and revolting).  “Grown-ups say kids aren’t creative enough to come up with new ideas!”  (more boos and screams).  “Grown-ups say kids don’t work hard enough to do what it takes to start a company” (now the Principal has to calm them down and ask them to get back in their seats).  “I say you can start a company and I need some smart kids to help me prove it!”

My course was over-subscribed and lots of kids were turned away.  We start day 1 of the Coloring Book company next Friday!  It should be fun.  I will chronicle the adventure here.

What I love about babies (but forgot I loved about babies).

1 Dec

**Warning to anyone grossed out by talk of nursing!**   This post is full of it. In fact, I, myself, am a person who is grossed out by nursing before having the baby and the again at very moment I am done nursing, but while I’m in it, I really do love it.  Apparently….

Fiona was a baby 7.5 years ago.  Rowan, 5.5 years.  I had forgotten so many things about true baby-hood until Henry.  As he is for sure our last, I feel compelled to document and cherish the moments this one last time.  Things I LOVE about babies and hope that I never forget:

  • As they lean in to nurse, they do a little left-right-left-right head shake with mouth open before they MUNCH down. Like a little milk monster.
  • Henry, like Rowan and Fiona, nurses with his big toe in my belly button.  Weird, I know.  But it feels so cozy, nostalgic, like home — for him too, I bet.
  • When they are asleep and dreaming of nursing, their little gaping mouths reveal the half-nursing tongue pulsing in, out, in, out.  Often in to a rhythm like pulse…pulse…pulsepulsepulsepulsepulse…..pulse…pulse… and so on.
  • When you put on a diaper, often you don’t get the diaper fully over both butt cheeks.  Sometimes, once you are done and he’s on his belly, you have to reach a finger in and pull the edge of the diaper out, feeling the soft chubby bottom against the back of your pointer finger. Heavenly.
  • At almost 4 months, Henry is doing one of my favorite moves:  laying on his back, he puts his legs in the air and holds his toes , rolling gently to the left and right while he smiles and drools.  Quintessential baby!  Even better addition: he’s starting to suck his toes now.
  • When babies are feeling shy or not that hungry but just snuggly, they will suck, suck suck three times then pull away and look out into the world.  Then suck suck suck three times then pull away and look out into the world.  Smiling at you before he “goes in” again.
  • 9 months:  CRAWLING.  o my god, how cute is the little side to side waggle of a crawling baby!  I could watch him from behind for hours (which works out, cause I MUST follow him constantly at this unstable, exploration phase.)  In the early days of crawling, a baby’s hand arcs up really high before they “slap” down on to the floor.  love that sound…
  • 10 months: the game of “catch me if you can”.  When you see Henry heading for the toilet water, and he sees you seeing him head for the toilet water, and he KNOWS he shouldn’t head for the toilet water, he starts to JAM! Faster and faster, head-down, laughing at the game of it all — determined to make it there before you make it to him.

What else???!!!  I’ll keep adding to this one, but help me. What do you love?! Help me remember!

Happiness is Contagious

6 Dec

img_0671This week, findings will be released from some long-term research on the levels of happiness within one’s social network.

The finding: happiness is contagious.

People who live close to and interact with happy people are happier themselves. Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School and James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at University of California, San Diego asked 5000 people and their social networks about their happiness, over a 20-year period, and the results are fascinating. Happiness appears to spread readily through communities of geographically connected family and friends.

  • Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself.
  • A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor’s sister’s friend can give you a 5.6% boost.
  • A happy friend who lives within a half-mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself. If that same friend lives two miles away, his impact drops to 22%. Happy friends who are more distant have no discernible impact, according to the study.
  • Similarly, happy siblings make you 14% more likely to be happy yourself, but only if they live within one mile.
  • Next-door neighbors who are happy make you 34% more likely to be happy too, but no other neighbors have an effect, even if they live on the same block.
  • The people at the center of the social graph (the popular ones) are happier.  (Well maybe this last result is not so ground-breaking.)

Interestingly, the one exception was the work environment.  Happy co-workers do NOT make you happier (unless the co-workers are friends).  I can see competition in the work environment distorting normal happiness dynamics.  And in my experience at many companies, employees are not encouraged to fully express happiness (or sadness, fear, skepticism or any real emotion) in the work environment, thereby preventing their happiness from spreading.  (Reading this makes me so thankful for the culture we have collectively created at Scout Labs where we not only encourage the expression of unique personalities, but we are also truly friends!)

This is being seen as ground-breaking research, because happiness is often thought of as an exceedingly individualistic state – as if happiness is a thermostat which is pretty well set when you are born.  It’s also controversial in its claim that physical proximity is what matters most – even if we say we say we stay “connected” with phones and emails and webcams and the like. “We suspect emotions spread through frequency of contact,” Fowler said. As a result, he said, people who live too far away to be seen on a regular basis don’t have much effect.

Why would happiness be infectious?  Evolution may have encouraged it if it helped hominids and early humans enhance their social bonds so they could form successful groups, the researchers said.

Part of what’s interesting to me, from a pure research perspective, is how they re-created the social network.  They started with nearly 5000 research participants, then rounded out their networks by using home addresses to locate neighbors and employment information to identify co-workers. Altogether, they constructed a social network that included 12,067 study volunteers who were linked to each other through 53,228 ties.  These same researchers have used a similar methodology to show that obesity and smoking spread among groups of friends and relatives.

So when you head home tonight, remember that the mood you arrive with will be contributing to the mood of not only your husband and your kids, but of your kids’ friends and your next-door neighbor!  Be sure to put on some really good music on the way home.

Pictures from our trip to Bali

16 Jul