Blogs and Facebook Pages: Creating an Online Magazine

Collections of magazines

When it comes to Social Media everyone is in the publishing business. Blogs and Facebook Pages are forums for community building. Occasional self-promotion is alright, but your followers will not keep coming back unless you provide fresh, valuable content that encourages conversation.

Think like a magazine…

With social communication tools you and your company can develop an interactive, engaging, online magazine that will attract followers and strengthen your credibility and brand. Sounds great, right? Before you jump in, think about what this means. If you don’t have a plan to maintain your presence daily (or at least several times a week), your fans will lose interest.

Stay away from self-promotion…

Look at your favorite magazines. You may see a few discrete appeals for subscriptions (and that card that always falls out on the floor), but what compels you to read them is the content. The focus is on the reader, not the publication. Many bands use their Facebook Pages solely as a billboard to announce upcoming gigs, post new songs, reviews, and generally talk about themselves. If I’m a fan of a company or artist, I already know I like what they do. There is no reason to regularly return to their Facebook Page if it doesn’t offer anything new.

Consistency breeds loyalty…

If The New Yorker skipped a couple of issues or was suddenly missing columns they would lose readers fast. Facebook Pages and blogs require the same consistent commitment to publishing content.

Reach the right audience…

A good magazine brings you unique, targeted content you can’t find anywhere else. Who are you trying to reach and what do they value? Many folks get much of their news and cultural information from Facebook and blogs. If you’re not Hemingway, you can establish a strong identity simply by aggregating content and encouraging discussions with your fans.

Talk about what you (and your followers) love…

I’m a guitar player. I have many friends who are guitar players. The most active conversations on their Facebook Walls are about music they love, or gear, or instruments, or other musicians. If it’s an upcoming gig it’s usually mentioned because it is something special. “I’ll be playing at blah-blah on Friday night” is generally not a conversation starter.

Personal Facebook Profiles vs. Facebook Fan Pages…

Some people are very active on personal Facebook profiles, but when they put up a business Page they suddenly clam up or resort to self-promotion. The nature of social technologies is to blur the lines between formal business and social communication. If you are running out of ideas try sharing other people’s posts you would naturally publish on your personal Wall. Plug in interesting content from around the web and see what gets a conversation going. Comment daily on other people’s Pages, Facebook Groups and blogs with a link back to you.

Create a publishing schedule, keep it active and see what works…

Magazine publishers live and die by deadlines and production schedules. Make a plan for your Page or blog and stick to it. When you see something that works, ask yourself why and do more of that. Most important, keep it fresh and interesting.

What approaches to blogging and Facebook have been most effective for you and your company?

Image courtesy of Long Nguyen

What Is the Unmet Need?

Companies are most successful when their products meet fundamental human needs. Focusing on the unmet need creates an environment for product design and communication that speaks directly to human beings.

What I learned from wraparound…

As a product manager I sensed this intuitively, but I really saw it in action when I worked on wraparound teams organized to help at-risk kids and their families. Wraparound is a non-clinical planning process not dissimilar to product management, creative problem solving, and business model design. The process is simple to describe but very difficult to pull off successfully, in part because people are not used to thinking and speaking in the language of needs.

A wraparound team is organized around the family and their natural community. The process begins by creating an inventory of the strengths of each team member. Next the team develops needs statements, and brainstorms strategies to meet those needs. The strategies are filtered to best align with the identified needs and the strengths of the team. Finally, the plan is executed and adjusted.

Sounds simple, but guess what? If the needs are not correctly articulated the strategies are rarely successful. For example, “He needs to finish high school” or “She needs to stop taking drugs” are goals and outcomes not needs. Perhaps the real unmet need is knowing he can take care of himself, or that she can experience joy. That changes the entire conversation.

Business is all about people too…

The same ideas hold true in business. Every successful product solves a problem by meeting a basic human need. Companies that understand this are able speak to customers directly about why they are in business without becoming trapped in describing  what they do and how they do it. Simon Sinek discusses this in his book, Start With Why. As Marty Cagan says in his great book for product managers, Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love:

“I find it ironic that so many of us in the product world come from science and business oriented backgrounds, yet such a large part of what we do every day is really about emotion and human psychology. Most of us may not think of our job this way, but we should.

People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons. The best marketing people understand this, and the best product people ensure that their products speak to these emotions.

… Once you have clearly identified and prioritized the dominant buying emotions your customers bring to your product, focus on that emotion and ask yourself where else they might be able to get that need met? That’s your real competition. In many cases you’ll find that the competition you should be worrying about is not the startup or big portal that’s after the same thing you are, but rather the offline alternative.”

Apple and eBay

Apple is in the business of empowering individuals. This mindset enabled them to invert the carrier/hardware equation for the entire wireless industry. I recently caught a Harvard Business Review podcast with John Donahue, CEO of eBay. He described the company as being in the business of ‘connecting buyers and sellers’. Each acquisition and product development decision is measured against this simple mission, which clearly describes the basic need the company addresses.

Imagine your company makes electric chairlifts for the elderly living at home. Think how your products and communication would differ with these two perspectives:

The elderly need to get up and down the stairs when their mobility becomes limited.

The elderly need to know they are independent and can stay connected with their family.

In the first case you might talk about the features of the chair, reliability of the motor, ease of installation, etc. In the second scenario I imagine the conversation would be quite different.

If you are not used to thinking of products, and services in terms of the needs they meet, you might want to take a look at this needs inventory courtesy of the Center For Non-Violent Communication.

The idea here is to continually ask yourself, “What need does my business meet? What problem does it solve?” It is  easy to be swept away by particular strategies and technologies. If you lose the human focus you may also lose your customers.

What do you think makes products and businesses successful? Join the conversation!

Social Norms & Market Norms

As behavioral economist Dan Ariely notes in his book, Predictably Irrational, we live simultaneously in two worlds; one ruled by social norms, and the other determined by market norms. If you hire a professional designer to develop a website for you, they  expect to be paid in cash. If they invite you to Thanksgiving dinner, it would  be inappropriate to offer them $200 for the wonderful meal! Bringing a dessert or a bottle of wine and offering to help clean up would fit the social norm.

Social Networks are, well, Social…

Online social networks arise spontaneously and are built on trust. Permission to join a network and share your art, requires an understanding of that community’s purpose and rules. People connect online out of a need to be acknowledged; to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, express themselves, create, have fun, show off a bit and share opinions. Before you start talking about your business, your next gig, or your latest album, ask yourself what the network values.

What have you learned about the online communities you participate in? What  contributions have gotten the conversation going?

Understanding & Managing Social Media – Part 1

Getting Started

The rise of the social web has caused profound shifts in the way we consume and share information. Media industries like publishing and music, have experienced devastating disruption. Even if your business has avoided this first shockwave, the relationship between you and your customers has changed forever. If you are not using social communication technologies to engage your customers today, don’t wait any longer. You can be sure your competition is way ahead of you.

But why?

For many, the idea of committing to a Social Media strategy and collaborating with customers is still uncomfortable, but the payoff can be enormous. Well designed Social Media campaigns create a direct channel to your fans; a powerful opportunity to understand their needs, establish trust, and personalize your offerings.

I’m still not convinced…

If you are new to Social Media and skeptical or confused, there are many good books for business people exploring the larger dynamics of this massive social shift. I can recommend a few:

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

The Network Is Your Customer by David Rogers

How To Make Money With Social Media by Turner & Shah

Content Rules by Handley & Chapman

The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

Groundswell by Li and Bernoff

… and anything by Seth Godin who’s book, Permission Marketing was one of the first to identify the significance and dynamics of this global change.

But I’m already on Facebook…

I suggest developing a solid understanding of the principles and underlying forces in social campaigns before jumping into the tools in a big way. Having a million Twitter or Facebook followers doesn’t really mean much unless the relationships are genuine and your approach is aligned with your larger business strategy.

In Part Two of this series I will offer some tips for managing the “always-on” overload that can accompany Social Media.

A fresh look at Artist-to-Audience Communication

In this video clip from the recent Rethink Music conference in Boston, KU’s Nancy Baym (see her new blog: Online Fandom) makes the point that artist – fan collaborations are creating  economic transactions that aren’t generally factored into discussions about declining music revenues.

There’s a lot of work that doesn’t have to get done anymore because audiences do it…fans want to help – Nancy Baym

Thought Squad – A company that really cares

Thought Squad Spy logo
Thought Squad

Thought Squad, a small LA graphic design firm, is a great example of a company that cares for their fans and is truly passionate about what they do.

When you meet with them the creativity and energy explodes around you; books, logos, websites, music. If you are a customer you feel cared for. They genuinely take an interest in who you are and the passion that drives your business. This creates a real trust. When you are in a crunch, you can give them the ball and they will create something new and exciting; and hit your deadline.

When I wrote music for a living this was the experience I tried to give my clients. Music was an abstraction they couldn’t clearly visualize and the production process was beyond their technical skills. My clients were producers, directors and writers; creatives who needed a musical partner that could add a new aesthetic layer to their vision. Nothing was more satisfying to me than playing music for the first time and seeing that big smile light up … knowing I had hit the emotional vein.

This has nothing to do with ‘social media’ but everything to do with successful business…

Amazing Work + Genuine Caring = Fans who will talk about you

I am not a visual designer and it is a great experience to be on the other side of that equation; to know that there is someone I can trust to capture the essence of what I do.

How do you care for your customers? What turns them into Super Fans?

Connecting with your most passionate fans…

The companies that understand how to genuinely connect with their customers, online, and offline, are the ones that will emerge over the next twenty-four to thirty-six months, putting significant distance between themselves and their competition. – Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

Companies should also remember to focus on their passionate customers – both passionate fans and disappointed critics. These will be the customers who are most actively discussing your business, the ones who will share the most ideas, and influence others, and the ones whom you might easily convert from critics to lifelong supporters by giving them a little respect and attention. – David Rogers, The Network Is Your Customer

As you connect with your fans through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and online forums, keep in mind that the most passionate are the most active in the network and can easily become your advocates and emissaries if they are not already. Pay attention to them. Listen, and connect.

A customer or fan who is talking about you critically can become your greatest ally if you listen to them, understand their perspective, and respond with genuine caring. I’m not talking about trolls and sociopaths, but people that for one reason or another disagree with you or have had a bad experience. This is the best customer you could ever have. If you really take care of them, they can become a lifelong fan and evangelist for your company, your music, or your brand. Put your biggest supporters and your biggest critics at the top of the list and give them special attention.

What has your experience been connecting with your fans? How has listening to them and responding authentically changed your business? Share your stories!

Book Review: The Network is Your Customer – 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age

Book Review: The Network is Your Customer – 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age by David L. Rogers (@David_Rogers )

When I first picked up this book by David Rogers, (a professor at Columbia Business School), I thought it was yet another introduction to social communication technologies for wary corporate managers. Boy, was I wrong!

What’s different…

  • Rather than organizing the book around the use of specific social communication tools or an examination of the general theory of disruptive social technologies, Rogers builds his book around the behaviors and needs of customer networks. The title is quite apt.
  • The writing is accessible and the book is very well organized and designed to be practical. The first two chapters explain the dynamics of customer networks and social communication technologies. Each of the 5 behaviors he identifies are examined in their own chapters and multiple strategies are presented. Next, Rogers dedicates a chapter to a specific planning and implementation process that will help businesses apply these ideas to their specific situations. He then asks the questions, “What will the organization of the future look like?”and “How do we create an organization that is not just customer-focused, but customer-network focused?” Finally, he systematically reviews each of the strategies in the book, by asking a series of questions in a ‘Self-Assessment Quiz’. Inquiry is a powerful technique for self-reflection, personalizing the ideas presented here.
  • There are well over 100 case studies spread throughout the book. Companies are listed in an Appendix, sorted by industry. Each case study specifically illustrates the strategy Rogers is describing. This is an effective approach that makes it very easy to ‘try on’ techniques with your organization. As I was reading the book I found myself taking these case studies and translating them for my clients.

The Big Idea

Rogers suggests 5 Strategies that any business can use to create new value by harnessing the power of customer networks:

  1. ACCESS – be faster, easier, everywhere, and always on
  2. ENGAGE – become a trusted source of great content
  3. CUSTOMIZE – make everything you offer adaptable to your customer’s needs
  4. CONNECT – become part of your customer’s conversations
  5. COLLABORATE – involve your customers at every stage of your enterprise.

There is a lot here; much more than an explanation of disruptive technology. Rogers provides a road map, demonstrating techniques that will tap the power of customer networks, regardless of your industry or the size of your company. Recommended!