Saturday, July 28, 2012

When Social Media becomes a Social Menace

From 1987 to 1996, if you tuned into our local small town radio station in the morning weekdays, you might catch the call in talk show called “Contact” hosted by a fellow named Grant Mitton. The premise of the program was fairly simple – Grant would generally speak for a few moments at the beginning of the show (maybe discussing something that was in the news or introducing a special guest) and then folks would call in and share their opinion.

Grant was a great host and seemed to effortlessly take on various roles: mediator, counselor, referee and sometimes even religious advisor. It could be very entertaining to listen to and more often than not, the same folks would call in day after day to claim their minutes of fame.

Talk radio WAS social media, albeit a much more controlled form.

·  The message was controlled
·  The time was controlled
·  The medium was controlled

This highly controlled environment was limited to an hour each day wherein the host could pull the plug at any time if things got out of hand. It rarely happened though….Grant was like an old friend, his voice was soothing….comforting and supportive. Rarely did he have to raise his voice, rarely did he need to pull the plug. It was a different time back then….people seemed less….angry? Frustrated?

Local folks loved that program. It gave them a voice in situations where they felt they did not have one, and for others (those regular callers), it seemed to give them a purpose. Mitton always opened with “I invite your calls….any subject under the sun”. The program debated the oil and gas industry, government, environmental name it! It even engaged the services of a psychic to come on the air to connect with callers. Highly entertaining! Nothing seemed off limits.

Fast forward 16 years….where the heck are we now?

We have Facebook.

We have Twitter.

Facebook and twitter have taken the place of call in radio programs and talk shows. Do you notice the decline in Phil Donahue/Oprah type talk shows? In a world of immediate connectivity, there is no need to tune in for an hour to listen to a radio/television program. We are treated badly by a retailer? We tweet about it. We have a concern about our local government? We start a conversation on facebook. We want to connect with a celebrity? We connect with them on Twitter….and they respond.

Unfortunately……these forums are rarely controlled – no one ever says enough is enough. There is seldom a moderator….no one to pull the one to protect folks from themselves.

Scott Stratten, best selling author of Unmarketing and someone with his thumb firmly on all things social media says, “Social Media is an amplifier”. It is true. As soon as you press send on that Facebook post or tweet… is gone and you can’t get it back. Oh sure….you can delete it, but rarely can you delete it before it has been copied, retweeted or shared.

Basically…you just shouted from the rooftops….spelling mistakes and all. Did you speak truth? Did you overshare? Did you get caught up in the Herd Mentality and comment or pass along something that you shouldn’t? Did you damage someone’s reputation? Did you damage YOUR reputation?

I am an advocate for social media…..I use it in many of its forms, but it has a very dark side: One that we are seeing rear its ugly head more and more often. It is almost like (for some) there is a pop up when they log onto Facebook that says, "Do you solemnly swear to irritate, antagonize, bitch, whine and complain, bully, and comment without any thought to how it will effect the universe?" Press YES to continue. 

Think about it....that last comment you pressed send…..but should you have pressed delete instead?

Here are some tips about using social media:

·  Never, ever tweet or use facebook while intoxicated (even if it is funny, the spelling mistakes are enough to make you look bad)
·  Avoid commenting on sites that may hurt your brand (you are what/where you post)
·  Don’t over-share! Divorce, break-ups, birthing photos……nope!
·  Do not engage with negative behaviour on facebook.
·  Don’t be a Troll 
·  Don’t be passive aggressive…if you have a problem with a business…start by telling them directly so that they can correct the problem.

The title of this article was “When Social Media becomes a Social Menace”.  It is up to you….you control your message; you control the response to the messages you receive.

It is your choice.


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Whale of a Tale

“No woman should work this hard on her birthday!”

That was just one of the many comments that I heard while talking with customers in line at the Olde Creek Store in Dawson Creek last week. The mood was positively festive! Customers were smiling, and not one bit concerned about having to wait a wee bit during the busier moments throughout the day.

What began in 2004 as a unique way for store owner, Tanya Machula, to celebrate her 40th birthday (a birthday that many of us wish to forget), has become a highly anticipated annual event. You see…..that first year Tanya didn’t just give 20% off, or even 30% off…..instead she offered her customers a whopping 40% off! For the past 8 years that percentage has grown in direct relation to Tanya’s age and last week the sale was 48% off storewide.

Tanya’s Birthday Sale is a perfect example of something called “Lagniappe” (pronounced Lan Yap)

What the heck is lagniappe? Let me explain…two years ago I stumbled across a very cool website by Stan Phelps. His blog was all about this strange thing called “Lagniappe” and something that he called his “Purple Goldfish Project”. I was intrigued.

Phelps defined Marketing Lagniappe or Purple Goldfish as any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a little something extra for the customer. He also described it as Marketing G.L.U.E. (Giving Little Unexpected Extras). The blog was filled with great examples of Marketing Lagniappe and his book, “What’s Your Purple Goldfish? How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth” will definitely make you think.

The concept resonated with me so deeply that I have never forgotten about it. In fact, I watch for examples of Purple Goldfish wherever I go and if I see a cool one…I either blog about it or tweet about it.

Tanya’s sale is wonderful example! In fact, it is the WHALE of a Purple Goldfish!

And the best part? Tanya’s unique marketing approach isn’t another fish story….it is authentic, it is sincere… is real.

Even more unusual is her marketing approach for the annual sale. There is no designated twitter hashtag, no radio ad campaigns….she shares the information via facebook, an email newsletter and signage at the store.

I particularly loved the sign at the store entrance titled, “Tanya’s Birthday Sale Rules”. The last rule was: “Have fun and be gentle with other customers”.

“Gratitude is an attitude” and when business owners live that statement each and every day, Marketing Lagniappe can come easily.

Other great examples of lagniappe:

·   Being served a free beverage or appetizer while waiting in line at your favourite restaurant;

·   A note or a treat waiting in your room at a hotel where you have previously stayed;

·   Dealerships who clean your car (inside & out) when you bring it in for servicing;

·   A hotel which offers a safety check-in for those guests who like to go for a solitary jog in the a.m. or p.m.;

·   A dental office which allows you to “plug in” your ipod or iphone and listen to your own playlist during your appointment (music can assist with anxiety)

Have I got you hooked on looking for Purple Goldfish? If you see one, you can always go to and share it on the Purple Goldfish Project page. While you are there, take a minute and read through all of the others that have been submitted. They are pretty amazing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beets & Pieces

I had an interesting conversation with a young grocery store Check Out Clerk the other day. It went something like this:

Clerk picks up bag with produce item, puts on scale and gets puzzled look on her face: “Do you know how much these turnips are?”

Me (with a teeny, weeny smile tugging at the corners of my mouth): “Um…, I don’t and ummm….they are beets”.

I was a little surprised. As a former farm girl, I found it hard to believe that someone could mistake a beet for a turnip.

After returning home I posted the exchange on my facebook page and received mixed feedback. I thought the comment would elicit waves of giggles out of everyone. That wasn’t the case. Not everyone agreed with my assumption that the Clerk would/should know the difference between a turnip and a beet. One friend did take the opportunity to share a similar story though. She posted, “Once I went through the till with balls of suet for the birds. The poor thing (clerk) wondered how to cook it and was it good??? I told her the birds seemed to like it and I served it raw....”

But I digress (I love, love to digress….have you noticed?)

As I was saying, not everyone agreed with my assumption that the Clerk would/should know the difference. So I decided to write about it…..this thing called “assumptions”.

How many of us make judgment calls based on the notion that if something is common knowledge to us, then it must be common knowledge to EVERYONE?

Tasks and terminology that are of second nature to us, must be second nature to those around us, especially if they are in the same industry? Right?

How many of us have been in a conversation with colleagues and not had a clue what the flurry of acronyms meant…only to Google search it later. Think of how much more we could have contributed to the conversation had we known what they heck they were talking about.

Is there a lesson in this? Yes, I think so:

  • ·   Don’t judge those who don’t understand what you are saying…it could be a generational gap causing the confusion.
  •    Don’t use an acronym in a document or a conversation without using its entirety at least once, i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • ·   Do ask questions and don’t feel silly asking them. It is up to you to speak up – no one knows that you don’t understand and if you don't understand, you cannot be an active participant.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's Been Fun

"It's been fun"

The sound you are hearing is millions of Twitter fans and Social Media experts sucking in air.


With those final three little words "It's been fun", @alecbaldwin has (once again) left the building known as Twitter and (once again) we seem to care.


Is it because his tweets were smart and funny and we couldn’t wait to check out his stream every day?

No….I don’t think so

Is it because he shared timely and relevant information?

No, not in my opinion

It must be because his political commentary was riveting….right?

No…not really

Well….why then? Why do we care?

Oh! Oh! Pick me! I have the answer! (my hand is extended over my head and I am jumping up and down)

We care because…

If @alecbaldwin can quit twitter than that means (gasp) others might follow suit and QUIT! OMG! OMG!

The fans panic because if an uber tweeter like @alecbaldwin can call quitsy then perhaps @KimKardashian or @JessicaSimpson or…holy shit….@justinbieber might.quit.tweeting

Is it a sign of the Apocalypse? Is it an indication the End of Days are near? Will @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher) with over 11 million followers be next?

Nah…..of course not, but it does unravel some fans a bit because for them, Twitter is about entertainment, not necessarily information.

But what about the Social Media folks….you know who I mean…the ones who live to talk about hashtags, trends and twitter streams. Folks like us who make our living by making sure that our attendees and clients are fully engaged using social media. Why do we care? 

  • We care because we have invested an awful lot of energy into Twitter
  • We care because we feel like we have helped nurture, guide and shape Twitter into the social media star that it has become
Has Twitter reached a tipping point?

Has it “jumped the shark?”

I think not.

Twitter has become a powerful social media tool and one highly publicized defection by a well known celebrity will not create a mass exodus. Frankly, I would be more concerned if someone like @jenisefryatt suddenly announced she were abandoning Twitter because Jenise uses Twitter to inform and engage. She shares information. She is a Social Media star and much more of a celebrity in my circle than @alecbaldwin.

So until that happens....I am not gonna worry about it.

Perhaps @alecbaldwin just wanted to spend time with his lovely new bride. No other reason.

You can let that breath out….it’s gonna be okay.