#thinkndrink Returns

#thinkndrink Returns

#thinkndrink started with this. Six years later (and after a bit of a lull), we're bringing it back. Why? Over the past six months, a couple of things happened:

  •  I realized #thinkndrink had become something really memorable for me, something that gave me energy (thank you Gina Rau and Susan Clark for helping me realize this).
  • People started asking me about it: Where had it gone? Was it coming back? Could it come back?

With that said, we're bringing #thinkndrink back for its sixth year. Here is the lowdown:

  •  It's a weekly (yes, weekly -- Fridays) meetup between creatives, developers, programmers, writers, marketers, designers and various digital geeks (and beyond, meaning anyone can come).
  • We usually gather around 5ish and hang out for a couple of hours. There is no agenda, no name tags, no sign-up. It's extremely low-key -- we like it like that.
  • It's driven by Twitter (just follow the #thinkndrink hashtag or me)-- there is no website, blog, or Meetup page. Just follow the hashtag weekly to find out where it will be held. Usually it's at a close-in Portland bar. If no one bites, we'll skip it for that week. Note: there have been other people and orgs using #thinkndrink over the last couple of years; not much we can do about that. We'll keep the hashtag for now.

Join us on Friday, January 15th for the revival of #thinkndrink at 5pm at Cooper's Hall in Portland. Looking forward to seeing friends, old and new. Cheers!

 Why Your Social Media Giveaway Will Fail

Why Your Social Media Giveaway Will Fail

Most of the people who will enter your social media giveaway enter a lot of online contests. They’re sweepstakers, they don’t care about your brand, and never will.

There are an infinite numbers of articles on the interwebs with advice on how to run a “successful social media contest” (just Google it) — from how to choose the right type of giveaway, to how to plan and execute the giveaway, to promotion and follow up. But what does success mean? Really. What does it mean? If your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 10%, an Instagram contest is likely to do that, but are your new followers people who care about your brand? Are they even people who might care about your brand after you reel them in? Or is the relationship doomed from the start?

Confession: I have run social media contests that failed.

Did my clients grow their following? Yes.

Did the brand gain exposure? Yes.

Were the winners happy? Probably.

Does this constitute success? It depends on how you define success for your campaign.

The most important piece of your social media giveaway strategy is…to have one. The second most important element of this process is to define your goals and objectives. How are you going to measure success? Once you’ve answered this question, make sure your strategy is designed with your goals in mind.

I’m guessing that, if you've gone through this process (or are about to), your number one goal is to grow your fan following by getting in front of a new audience. If that’s your goal, it’s close, but not quite on point. Your goal should be to get in front of a new audience who is likely to become customers of your brand. This changes everything. Here’s why...

Sweepstakers enter a lot of contests. Some of them make living from it. They find contests in a few different ways:

  • By searching social networks (mostly Twitter) for keywords and hashtags, such as #win, #contest, and #giveaway. Most sweepstakers create Twitter accounts and email addresses solely for the purpose of entering contests.
  • By maintaining a go-to list of blogs to visit daily that make a practice of running regular giveaways.

Sweepstakers are not interested in your brand. They want to win something, and usually they don’t care what it is. They, most likely, won’t convert to true fans, loyal advocates or even customers. Have they followed you, Liked your page and subscribed to your newsletter? Yes, because they had to. Did your follower count go up? Of course it did. Will you ever hear from them again. Not likely.

So what can you do to reach your goal? Remember what your goal was…to get in front of a new audience who is likely to become customers of your brand. Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent sweepstakers from entering your giveaway, here are a few tips that will help procure quality participants:

  • Don’t run a giveaway: Maybe a giveaway isn’t right for your brand. Consider creative digital marketing campaigns or targeted Facebook advertising. This may take some experimenting to figure out what works for your target audience.
  • Require engagement: Although it’s important to make giveaways easy to enter, you may not want to make it too easy. Offer a prize that people want and require participation for qualification. This is one of my favorites from Tillamook Cheese.
  • Focus on local: If your prize is a trip, anyone can enter (no matter where they’re located) and use the prize. But if your prize is local (spa, dinner and a show) and you geo promote it, it’s likely to dissuade sweepstakers from entering because they can’t use the prize. Even if you’re a regional, national or global business, you can offer local prizes. It may require more research and content creation, but it’s likely to procure more relevant fans.

There are several types of giveaways: contest, sweepstakes and lotteries. Make sure you know what you’re running and what the legalities are in your state.

Anytime you run a campaign (whether it be a contest, advertising campaign or otherwise) for your brand that helps grow your social media fanbase, don’t lose them. Plan out a content strategy for when your campaign is over that keeps new followers curious, engaged and wanting more. And don’t forget to track and record your results so that you can use that data to inform future campaigns.

Have you run an online giveaway that you’ve considered successful? Tell me about it!

 #thinkndrink At Five — Why It's Hanging On And Still Awesome

#thinkndrink At Five — Why It's Hanging On And Still Awesome

I'll be brief.

Five years ago, almost exactly, a group of 11 strangers (brought together by 140 characters) converged, in person, at a bar in Portland. On that day, #thinkndrink was born.

Since that day, a lot has happened — in the lives of those 11 people and dozens more, in Portland, and in the world.

Since that day, and because of that day, lifelong friendships formed, passions were discovered, and careers changed, shifted, evolved and flourished.

Since that day, #thinkndrink has exploded, hovered and slowed. But on any given week, the creative class revives it...with a Tweet. That's what makes this "thing" and this town, awesome.

Stop by EastBurn Friday, November 21st to see old friends and new — designers, writers, bloggers, developers, innovators, thinkers, doers + then some.

If you'd like to read more about #thinkndrink, you can do here.

Cheers!

Photo credits: Andrew Kreps & Rob Alan & Ryan Weisgerber

 Inside the Mind of a Super Fan: Leveraging Your Most Vocal Advocates

Inside the Mind of a Super Fan: Leveraging Your Most Vocal Advocates

MY PATH TO SUPERFANDOM

I rolled into the neighborhood liquor store to pick up a bottle of cherry vodka (this isn’t something I make a habit out of, mind you). Inside the store, my mission was (fortunately) diverted by a sample table from a newish vodka distillery out of Bend, Oregon called Wild Roots. Each bottle of Wild Roots Raspberry Vodka contains a pound of locally sourced raspberries — and it tastes, and smells, as good as it sounds. I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought a bottle of liquor, let alone a bottle of $33 vodka. But it's safe to say, now, that a shot of that deep red with some cold lemonade on the rocks is a little piece of heaven in my eyes.

Being that social media is somewhat ingrained in my blood, you can only imagine what I did next. Yes — I stalked Wild Roots on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (admittedly on Google+ as well, to no avail). I wasn't afraid to share, with the world mind you, my newest brand infatuation (unfazed by the potential gossip that would ensue from friends, family, colleagues and clients as I'm a Mom of two kids under four-years-old with an unbridled crush on a bottle of vodka).

Then it hit me. I have become one of them. One of those people I get paid to help clients hunt down. I have become…..a superfan.

So what happened next? Wild Roots has favorited, and replied to, some of my Tweets …that was nice. Could Wild Roots have leveraged my obsession to their advantage? Should they have? Yes and yes.

LET YOUR SUPERFANS TELL YOUR STORY

Through social media engagement, brands have the opportunity to strengthen relationships with those who already love them, creating life-long fans who will tell theirstory to all their friends. Yes, tell your story! Brands and marketers spend a lot of time and money telling their stories in hopes they touch their audience on an emotional level, building loyalty and trust and ultimately converting that audience to customers. Now, through social media channels, your superfans want to tell your story for you. Jackpot! But are you prepared for when they do?

MANAGING SUPERFANS

For small businesses, the process of identifying superfans may involve manually scanning your company's Facebook wall and Twitter stream and noting customers who regularly engage with your brand in a positive way. Double points for those fans who mention you across multiple social media sites (guilty). It's even likely that, as a small business owner (and the voice behind your social channels), you know who those fans are without the need to look them up. Keep track of them. It's as simple as creating a spreadsheet with your fan name, their social media profile URLs, and a summary of their engagement with you.

Larger corporations may enlist the help of a tool, like Branderati  to create an entire program around fan identification, engagement and cultivation. Branderati has coined the term "Advocate Influencer" which refers to "people with a wide reach who are already committed to your products and already endorse them in their daily lives". Digital products and services like Branderati give marketers, who are challenged with the daily task of wading through both positive and negative social chatter, a way to leverage positive sentiment in campaigns and advocacy programs. In a Convince & Convert post, Mark Organ (founder of Influitive) says “advocate marketing will be as mainstream in a few years as email marketing is today.”

In a 2013 report, Why Consumers Become Brand Fans as part of their Value of a Facebook Fan Series, Syncapse reported that "78% of Fans are current brand users," with the number one reason for fans becoming a brand Fan was a desire to support the brands they like. Do you hear this brands and marketers? Your Facebook Fans choose you! They like you. They WANT to hear from you. As a superfan they wouldn't mind a super thank you (as emphasized by Ekaterina Walter in this post), a Tweet back or, as Gary Vaynerchuck explains here, even a 39 second phone call. A small price to pay for a fan for life.

FIND, ACKNOWLEDGE, CULTIVATE

The concept is fairly simple; someone likes you, you like them back and let them know it, they like you more — a superfan is born. Now go out there, find your superfans, acknowledge them, thank them, and maybe surprise them (I'm talkin' to you, Wild Roots). Heck, you might want to even hire them.

How have you identified and engaged with your superfans. How has your advocacy program helped grow your business? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experience.

This article first published in Social Media Today.

5 Signs Your Internship May Be a Hardship

5 Signs Your Internship May Be a Hardship

There are few topics I get on a soapbox for. And even fewer (potentially controversial) ones I share in social media. I tend to prefer to keep the peace -- it's just my style. But every once in a while I'm compelled to tip toe outside my comfort zone to advocate for something (or someone) I feel deserves the support. Such is today.

I posted this Tweet a few days ago after reading a help wanted ad (is that still what they're called?) for an intern who needed to have the knowledge and experience of a well-seasoned professional. Oh, and this person would be paid nothing in return for their "expertise". My Tweet went something like this:

"Pay your interns. It's the right thing to do."

So there is the belief, by some, that experience and/or class credit is payment enough to an intern. I get it, and I agree. Here is where this whole process can go sideways…

Some employers take advantage of interns as free labor rather than truly being an advocate of learning and professional development.

Not okay.

It's estimated that a million undergraduates take internships each year, 20% of which are unpaid with no academic credit. [Source: Intern Bridge] http://www.internbridge.com]. Under The Fair Labor Standards Act, and prompted by a Supreme Court case in 1947, interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime for the services that they provide to for-profit private sector employers (although there are six exclusions). 

Here are five signs that you may be signing on for a hardship rather than an internship:

  1. It's unpaid. Now let's be clear -- if the give and take seems well-balanced, and in your gut you feel the opportunity is a win-win for you and the employer, go for it. If not, you might be able to find a paid opportunity with a company who respects (not only) what you have already learned, but what you need to learn.

  2. No credit? Big problem. If your goal is to earn college credit through an internship, then find an opportunity that will provide credit. If you find an opportunity with an employer who doesn't offer credit, ask them to contact the internship department at your school.

  3. Disorganization. If you walk away from an internship interview without clear direction as to what your role and responsibilities will be, it could get messy, especially if it's in an organization that doesn't have time to do some hand holding. It's not you, it's them. There will be others who will have their act together. Find them. Don't set yourself up for failure. 

  4. Time. If you are a student, you have a lot of other deadlines to meet. Make sure the employer is clear on the time commitment required for the role. And in return, you need to make sure you're honest with yourself about how much you can take on. 

  5. Coffee instead of collaboration. If you've already accepted an internship and find yourself (often) completing tasks that you won't be able put on a resume (like making coffee or running errands)…walk away. Although it's impossible to know this is the type of situation you could end up in, you can ask (in an interview) "What will I be able to list on my resume as accomplishments after I complete this internship?" It's a fair question. Also, be proactive (with your intern coordinator and your job supervisor) in making clear what your goals are — what do you want out of the experience?

Now, regardless of whether or not your employer is playing fairly, if you've accepted an internship you've accepted the responsibilities of a real job. With that said, here are ten tips on doing your part:

  1. Show up. On time. If you can't, let your employer know.

  2. Dress to impress. I'm not a fan of business attire myself, but if that's the dress code at your job site, better get out the iron and pantyhose. But don't iron your pantyhose.

  3. Mingle. Get to know the people you work with. Make friends outside of other interns who may be working with you. Those relationships may come in handy down the road.

  4. Ask for feedback. It's the best way to improve.

  5. Ask questions. It's the best way to get it right, the first time.

  6. Be flexible. Although your role as an intern shouldn't be Chief Office Barista, staying open to some of the less important tasks will give you deeper knowledge of the company and position yourself as someone who's willing to grow in your role.

  7. Master the talk/listen ratio. You'll have a lot of ideas -- that's one of the reasons you've been hired. But you're also on board as an intern to learn and soak up information.

  8. Stay in touch. If you consider your internship successful, stay connected to your supervisor and others who worked alongside you. Those relationships will be important as you move through your career. See #9.

  9. Link in! Somewhere along the way, connect to your supervisor and co-workers on LinkedIn. Don't be shy to ask them for a recommendation, too.

  10. Be grateful. Thank those who contributed to a successful learning experience -- your instructors, internship coordinator, supervisor and co-workers. They'll remember you for it.

Do you have any red flags, tips or experiences to share?

[Photo credit: http://www.lovestrucksocialevents.com]

#thinkndrink — 4 Years of Awesome

#thinkndrink — 4 Years of Awesome

I can be two-faced, when it comes to networking. I like the perks — broadening my social circle, hanging out with like-minded people, getting away from the desk, and even hearing leads on new business opportunities. But I'm not a fan of doing the work. And by "doing the work" I'm referring to the stuff that happens (traditionally) at networking events — seeking out opportunities to (authentically) butt into conversations, launching into my personality and career sales pitch, eating and drinking (without overdoing it as not to poison first impressions), and the name tags.

So, I choose to un-network. I do it in Portland* every Friday. Ok, truth be told...not every Friday, but I could...if I wanted to. And so can you.

Four years ago #thinkndrink was born. It's a Friday happy hour meetup that brings together creatives, programmers, bloggers, digital marketers, social media strategists, and beyond. We meet at a different location each week and that location is usually Tweeted out on Thursday. We have no website. You'll see no name tags. Sometimes we talk about design, programming, blogging, marketing and social media. We always drink (whether it's a Cherry Coke or Rum & Coke).

There have been rumors that #thinkndrink is on its way out. Yes, it has slowed down...less attendance and less frequent. But that's the charm of #thinkndrink (and what makes it unique) -- it still happens if someone wants it to. Just pick a location and send out a Tweet using the #thinkndrink hash tag. Done!

With that said...join us this Friday (November 8th, 2013) at Bunk Bar for #thinkndrink. It's a bit of a celebration of our four year anniversary. But in true #thinkndrink style, it won't be any fancier than last week's.

*If you're in the LA area, Soda Pop PR hosts #thinkndrinkLA. Just follow the hash tag for deets.

[Original photos and contributors]

A Quick Tip To Gain More Twitter Exposure With #Hashtags

A Quick Tip To Gain More Twitter Exposure With #Hashtags

To #hashtag or not to hashtag. It's STILL the question. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon would advocate for the latter. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of blog posts about the subject…giving advice and best practices on how to properly use hashtags in social media. I have some to share, too, but I'm going to keep it simple and focus on one example of how you can improve hashtag reach with just a few minutes of research.

I'm a big fan of Vistaprint. They're a great print resource for small businesses needing fast and easy print solutions. They're a global company but their Twitter account is U.S. based. Their target market is, obviously, small business owners…so they target a lot of their social media topics and conversations to the small business owner. Great strategy. But I recently discovered an opportunity they're missing out on. Here's the scoop…

Vistaprint utilizes the hashtags #smallbusiness and #SMB in many of their Tweets. Using these hashtags help Vistaprint been seen by folks following conversations about small business on Twitter. A couple examples from their Twitter stream:

Here are three quick ways to make your "to-do" list your "done" list http://bit.ly/16eLm7E  #smallbusiness
Have you ever thought about how your #businesscards should mirror your website? Here are a few helpful tips: http://bit.ly/1asKMaO  #SMB

Because I, too, follow small business conversations on Twitter but prefer to use #smallbiz over #smallbusiness, I decided to check some data to determine which hashtag is getting the most play. There are numerous tools that provide hashtag metrics. I've done a very quick search using a free tool called Tweetreach (results below represent a specified number of Tweets over a specified amount of time):

#smallbiz
Estimated Reach: 723,850 accounts reached
Exposure: 836,993 impressions

#smallbusiness
Estimated Reach: 105,361 accounts reached
Exposure: 142,858 impressions

As you can see, #smallbiz procures approximately seven times the reach and exposure as #smallbusiness. Another perk? It uses less characters of the 140 Tweet character limit. I'd be curious to hear how using #smallbiz over #smallbusiness affects Vistaprint's Twitter engagement, results, and even (eventually) revenue.

If you're using hashtags in Twitter as part of a calculated strategy to gain attention around a specific conversation, take a few minutes to do your hashtag research. You might be surprised what you find. What are your tips for using hashtags?

Photo source: Enumclaw.com/Creative Commons

Running A Facebook Contest, Sweepstakes & Campaign: How To Avoid Being Shut Down

Running A Facebook Contest, Sweepstakes & Campaign: How To Avoid Being Shut Down

I'll make this short and sweet -- if you're managing a Facebook page for your company and run contests, sweepstakes or promotions, it's highly likely you're at risk of getting your page shut down. Why? Because Facebook has specific terms around how to run a campaign and I'd venture to say that 75% or more pages aren't following these rules. Curious if you're part of the 75%? I'll help you figure it out.

Facebook breaks it down for you here, but I'll highlight the four most common misuses of Facebook campaigns per their terms:

  1. You MUST use a third party app to run all Facebook contests, sweepstakes or promotions.
  2. You CANNOT ask fans to Like, comment or share a post or photo on your timeline to qualify for a contest, sweepstakes or promotion.
  3. You CANNOT ask fans to Like a post or photo as a way of voting during a contest, sweepstakes or promotion.
  4. You CANNOT notify the winners of a contest, sweepstakes or promotion through Facebook, whether it be on your timeline, their timeline, or private message.
  5. Facebook's terms are revised often so it's important to review them before you create and implement any Facebook campaign. 

Have fun!

**Note: Since this post was published Facebook has updated their policy around sweepstakes, contests and promotions. In summary, you DO NOT need to utilize a third party application to operate your Facebook promotion. You can read more about the current Facebook promotion policy here under letter E.

 You Can't Always Get What You Want...Unless You Tweet

You Can't Always Get What You Want...Unless You Tweet

You know the story about the kid who asked Mom for a treat and when she said "no" he went to Dad…because he knew Dad would most likely say "yes"? Oh. You were that kid? It's ok. I probably was, too. It's expected of kids. But is it expected of adults? Maybe, sometimes, it's our only option.

Whether it's expected or not, we (as customers) are taking advantage of the power given to certain employees to give us what we want through social media platforms. In the past year I've experienced two situations, one with Comcast and the other with LivingSocial, in which the customer service rep on the phone couldn't (wouldn't) turn a negative situation into a positive one  -- but the person on the other end of Twitter could, and did.

Sounds like a case of empowerment inconsistency to me. Why aren't all employees empowered to do what's right for a positive customer service experience?

I was fortunate to be part of a small group of people who launched New Seasons Market in early 2000. I could spend hours blogging up their praises, but I really want to focus on one small decision the founder and former CEO, Brian Rohter, made early on. He created the 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card. This card was given to every employee upon hiring. The card gave the employee permission to make a decision regarding any customer interaction that they felt would best benefit the customer and the company, regardless of what the situation was or even what their supervisor instructed them to do. What?! True story. Here are some examples:

  • Open a package of crackers so the customer could taste before they bought.
  • Walking three blocks down the street with a customer to help deliver their groceries to their home.
  • Sell a customer eight hot dogs out of a package of ten since hot dog buns come in an eight pack (yes!!).
  • Let a customer take their groceries home when they realized they left their wallet somewhere else…with the understanding they'll back and pay.

Who does this?! New Seasons Market does. And my question…why don't all grocery stores extend the same empowerment to their staff? We're not even talking about going above and beyond — we're talking about doing what's right. What do they have to lose? But more importantly, what do they have to gain?

Back to Comcast and LivingSocial. My experience with both companies centered around two situations that were not resolved through phone calls to their customer service personnel. You can probably imagine what happened next. I Tweeted and Tweeted. Of course I Tweeted! And although I really like to avoid negative energy in my Twitter stream, sometimes it's necessary to get things taken care of. Without going into detail I can tell you that BOTH situations were resolved because of me mentioning these companies on Twitter in dissatisfaction. In fact, Comcast responded within minutes and had someone to my house within hours…versus what I was told by their phone support staff which was that I'd have someone to my house within two days (and yes, I asked to speak to a manager). Two days just doesn't cut it for someone who relies on the Internet to run their business.

Why are the faces behind a brand's social media platforms given more power than the faces behind the telephone? Because as a disgruntled customer I have more of a negative impact on a company than the disgruntled customer who calls 1-800. People can hear my Twitter conversation and my experience could impact others' view of that company. I get it.

I love that companies, like Comcast, have empowered their staff (in this case the folks on Twitter) to do what's right to create a positive customer experience. But why, like New Seasons, haven't they empowered all of their staff…both off and online? I'm lucky in that I knew if I Tweeted my situation would, most likely, get resolved. But what about the non Tweeting customer who had to wait two days for Comcast to get their Internet up and running? Not being active on social media shouldn't be a punishment and impact your level of customer service support.

Clearly there is a disconnect in online and offline customer service policies which creates a disjointed brand. As a brand I want customers to rave about their experience with my company, not just how responsive my social media team is. Do you agree?

So why the disconnect? Why not empower all teams to just do what's right (within reason) to make a customer happy? Is it more expensive? Too time consuming? Weigh in.

The Lowdown On #thinkndrink

The Lowdown On #thinkndrink

Whoa! Where did the time go? I missed my yearly 'Ode to #thinkndrink' anniversary blog post. Many apologies. Happy New Year!

So for those of you who have been dedicated #thinkndrinkers over the last three (yes! three!) years, thank you...and I miss you. Where the heck are you? Our little un-meetup seems to have gone through a bit of a lull as of late. It's ok, all awesome things need a break once in a while. With that said...break's over!

For those newbies, or anyone slightly curious of what all the fuss is about, you can read about #thinkndrink here and here. Or, here's the skinny:

  • happens every Friday around 5ish in Portland, Oregon
  • location changes weekly and is shared (usually on Thursdays) only through Twitter - follow #thinkndrink
  • sometimes two people show, sometimes 20 (once 60)
  • there is no website or email address
  • anyone is welcome, although most #thinkndrinkers tend to frequent the creative/digital/marketing scene
  • we don't wear nametags
  • you don't have to be a drinker (but we may heckle you)
  • networking does occur (and many people have picked up work or acquired new jobs through folks they meet at #thinkndrink) but you won't hear me call it a networking event
  • it started in Portland and, currently, doesn't exist anywhere else (although a little birdie told me there may be one ramping up in LA...watch Tweets from @SodaPopPR or follow #thinkndrinkLA for more on that)
  • Here's to three years of thinking and drinking! Hope to see you one of these Fridays.

Jala.....

* Thanks for the photos Nate Garvison and Tyesha Snow.

 To Yelp or Not to Yelp

To Yelp or Not to Yelp

I use Yelp. Not often, but once in a while. A conversation I had with a friend the other night inspired me to do some investigating into some of Yelp's shady business practices (at least I think they're shady). She explained how glowing reviews she made on Yelp about her new favorite burger joint had been deleted by Yelp. The restaurant was contacted by Yelp and told that if they didn't pay a $500 fee for their account, comments would continue to be deleted. Upon further research I've found out a bit more about Yelp's filter policy. This guy has some issue with it, too.

What? Is this for real? Apparently, it is.

According to Wikipedia, Yelp is ".... a company that operates yelp.com, a social networking, user review, and local search web site." Let me get this straight...Yelp is a social network and review site that filters reviews. What's wrong with this picture?

Have you had any experiences with Yelp's controversial filter policy? I'd love to hear about it.

Just ran across this article since I posted this blog. The article doesn't specifically address how to deal with sites like Yelp who filter reviews, but it does give some good advice on how to respond to negatives reviews online.

Social Media As a User Experience

Social Media As a User Experience

 

I attended an event on Tuesday night with Jared Spool, hosted by ZAAZ and Vitamin T. Jared spoke about mobile user experience, and although I’m not a digital designer, app designer, or UX designer - I dug it.

Spool illustrated, literally, the importance of creating a user “experience” vs. user “activity”, and how companies who focus on experiences tend to stand out in the crowd. He demonstrated this with amusement park maps of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Disney’s Magic Kingdom — Six Flags’ map represented activity and Disney’s map represented an experience (as shown in the map samples below). You can read more about this analogy here.

This got me thinking about social media (go figure) and the importance of brands developing an overall social media strategy focused on providing an audience experience. We, as users, participate in online activities with brands — Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinning, reading blogs, et al. (the Magic Mountain vacation). But how impactful is engagement between brands and audiences whose activities feed into a larger, overall experience (the Disney vacation)? I'm sure you've seen the difference.

What brands are you paying attention to that have created a social experience online? How is this experience different from what brands who just focus on activities are doing? Does the experience cause you do engage on a deeper level? How does it affect how you feel about the brand?

Using Pinterest As a Brand? Follow In Allens Boots' Shoes -- I Mean, Boots

Using Pinterest As a Brand? Follow In Allens Boots' Shoes -- I Mean, Boots

Sure, Pinterest may just be a lot of pretty pictures, but it's a social network, in case you happened to forget. If you're a member of Pinterest, there's a good chance you, and most of its members, are using it for what's it's meant to be used for — a virtual pinboard. If you're a brand, you're probably creating boards embellished with product — hopefully more.

But either way, don't forget about the "social" part, especially if you're a brand.

I ran across a really good example of company who's rocking their Pinterest presence. No, it's not any of these — although they're doing great, too. Think boots. Yeah, boots.

I decided to create a board of suggested things to do while in Austin for SXSW, and was pleasantly surprised to get a response, from a brand, to one of my pins today. Kudos Allens Boots! What did they do so right? Check this out:

They commented on my pin. If you're managing a brand's Pinterest page, are you monitoring Pinterest for brand mentions and engaging with Pinners?

They're not just Pinning product — their boards are fun. 'Cowgirl''Mason Jars' and 'Tailgating Fun' — to name a few. They've thought strategically about other interests their customers might have...a great way to grow your fan base.

And, they're sharing their Boards and Pins on Twitter:

So if you're a brand, and haven't quite figured out if Pinterest is a good fit for you, Allen Boots is a great example of how you might be able to use it. More than that, they're an even better example of how you should use it.

What's Better Than 10,000 Tweets? A Lot.

What's Better Than 10,000 Tweets? A Lot.

Milestone are usually cause for celebration. Apparently I'm hitting one today — my 10,000th Tweet. Since April 16, 2008 I've Tweeted 10,000 times. I didn't even realize I was nearing such a momentous occasion, one of my Twitter followers pointed it out, twice (thank you @RufioJJ).

So, should I celebrate? Is this a big deal? Is it even blogworthy?

I admit, whole numbers can be sexy, especially when they're large. But maybe getting fired up over number of Tweets sent is a bit overzealous. Self indulgent even.

When it comes to Twitter, I think there are more important accomplishments to celebrate. Here are a few:

  • Have you shown your followers who you are, and what you do? — Represent you, and your business, genuinely. Avoid being just a persona. Translate your knowledge, skills, passions and personality online, just as you would in person.
  • Have you cultivated a Twitter network of people you respect, appreciate, learn from and enjoy engaging with? — These people contribute, positively, to your day and make your time on Twitter worthwhile.
  • Are you creating conversation? — Are your Tweets retweeted? Are your questions answered? Do your jokes get "laughed" at? No? Spend some time rethinking ways to create conversation with your audience. What do they want learn from you? What makes them think, or laugh? Conversations strengthen relationships.
  • Have you been added to Twitter Lists? — Ok, so this IS a number benchmark. But the difference is that it measures how relevant your followers think you are. If they've listed you, they're paying attention to you. They've taken the time to categorize you, and your Twitter content. You've made an impact on someone (usually positive, not all lists give reasons to puff up). Have you looked to see who's listed you and what lists they've put you on?
  • Are you helpful? — Have you connected people, or companies, who can help each other out? Have you given someone a lead on a job? Have you suggested a restaurant for someone to try out in your city? Maybe you should. It's easy. It only takes half a minute.
  • Just like anything else, it's about how you feel at the end of the day. 10,000 Tweets or 10 Tweets. It's not how many you have, it's what you're doing with them. What are you doing with your Tweets?

Image: Flickr/KB35 (Creative Commons)

What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

Nobody likes being wrong. Nobody likes to be criticized. And nobody likes to make mistakes. If you do, you’re better than me, and probably a lot of other people.

Brands, especially, get a little freaked out when they screw up. And even more freaked out when they’re called out about it...in front of hundreds, or thousands, of people.

Social media has changed the game for brands who, are now, up for a huge amount of public scrutiny. Rather than complaining about really bad customer service to my friends at a dinner party, I can post that same complaint on a brand’s Facebook wall for their entire fan base to see. Might make me feel good — the brand?...not so much.

Some brands have panicked so severely from consumer criticism on Facebook that they’ve removed posts and changed settings to prevent their remaining fan base from finding out about their ‘oops’. Heard about...

...to name a few?

Now I’m not talking about brands deleting comments that may be vulgar, racist, or harmful — that’s a whole other issue. We’re just talking about negative feedback about products, services, policies and business practices.

I’ve witnessed a handful of situations (working with brands) where a complaint from a fan in social media went from negative to awesome very quickly. Not only were we able to maintain the fan, they became even more respectful of the brand because we addressed their concern. And guess what — they let everyone know how awesome they thought we were afterwards. Hello!

Any social media nut (uh humm) will tell you that if a brand chooses to open themselves up to public conversations online, they need to be ok with, and prepared for, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But why are so many not? Why are brands unprepared to turn a negative into a positive, and no into a yes, an enemy into a super fan? Why are brands afraid of being wrong?

#thinkndrink — 2 Years of Awesome

#thinkndrink — 2 Years of Awesome

What are the right ingredients to a meetup (Tweetup) that doesn't suck? Maybe there are no ingredients. Maybe it's serendipity.

That seems to be the awesomesauce that has carried #thinkndrink through to two years. I won't go into the details of what #thinkndrink is or how it started...you can read about it here. This no strings, no rules, no speeches weekly gathering has created a fair amount of significant relationships between its followers...without even trying. A cult? Not so much (that does sound more exciting, though). But, among its conversations, you will hear a theme of shared creative drive, a love of Portland and its potpourri of talent, collaboration, and a curiosity about the possibilities and out-of-the box thinking.

Thanks to all of you lovely, inspirational people who have hit up one, or nearly all, #thinkndrinks over the past two years. I look forward to the next year of, well, whatever YOU make it.

See you tomorrow night, November 18th, for #thinkndrink at EastBurn.

61 Reasons You Might Love Pinterest

61 Reasons You Might Love Pinterest

Pinterest has stolen my heart, and replaced GoogleFlickrDelicious and numerous bookmarking tools. Well, that may be just a bit of an exaggeration, but it has found its way into my day, when many things, like organizing the basement, continue to be pushed to the bottom of the 'to do' list.

Who needs another social network, right? I sure don't. But I have found (good) excuses -- 61 of them to be exact -- that make this time-suck worthwhile. Before I go into them, here's the low-down on Pinterest:

  • it's is a virtual corkboard
  • it's is a way to save (by 'Pinning') visual ideas and categorize them onto 'Boards'
  • lets you connect to anyone else who has a Pinterest account, see their Boards and Pins, and follow their account, their Boards, and copy (Repin) their Pins
  • allows you to Pin any photo on the Internet

I could go on, but instead I'll just show you. Here are 61 things you might want to use Pinterest for:

Want to know more? Find anything and everything you'd want to know about Pinterest here, including tutorials. You can check out what I've been Pinning here. You can also follow me, or just specific boards.

For me, Pinterest is all about inspiration. What do you use Pinterest for?

 #thinkndrink — One Year of Awesome

#thinkndrink — One Year of Awesome

I think the folks who have frequented #thinkndrink over the past year would agree that this casual, organic, nomadic Friday happy hour is to blame for the start of some kick-ass relationships, both personal and professional.

It all started with a Tweet, on November 6, 2009:

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle (not really...I’ve just always wanted to say that). This unsuspecting happy hour meetup between two friends/colleagues turned into a chance Tweetup with a group of folks who, up until this day, had only known each other by a 50x50 pixel avatar — @jeremypair@DaveAtNORTH@billyhuys@samlaroe@swestbrook...I even think @unflatpdx and @brontestreet made an appearance at the Doug Fir Lounge that day. And so it began...

Since then #thinkndrink has carried on each Friday. The location changes weekly and is disclosed by a #thinkndrink Tweet Thursday or Friday morning, usually authored by a frequent flyer. It’s a democracy.

So this vague meet-up about nothing...what’s it really about? Here’s what the usual suspects have to say:

  • #thinkndrink is all about serendipity. It's a moveable feast where the faces, places and vibe are different every week.
     

  • I appreciate meeting all the awesome pdx peeps I've met at #thinkndrink who I likely would not have met otherwise.
     

  • #thinkndrink has connected me with some very fun, very smart people in the Portland graphic and web design, UX, and developer fields. The group is full of accomplished freelancers and employees of some of the biggest names in media. I am always thrilled to see my #thinkndrink friends because I know that I'll have great conversation, a good bite, and occasionally I'll pick up a referral for a freelance project.
     

  • For me, #thinkndrink is what turned my Twitter community into real life friends and colleagues. #thinkndrink is what gave me the exposure to the creative community I was looking for. I've made really great friends through it all and feel like I have a solid foundation of peer support. #thinkndrink is the people I wish I went to work with everyday. The folks that go there, while diverse in skills, values and interests, they all have a certain mindset about work and life that I connect with on a very deep level. #thinkndrink has been the conduit for my introduction into the Portland Creative Community.
     

  • For freelancers and those that work at home, it's great to have the Friday celebration like folks who work in office and got out together on Fridays.
     

  • I always find crazy support and true interest in what I'm doing in and ideas I have.
     

  • We’re all busy — meetings, deadlines, doctor’s appointments, kids’ soccer games. Most of us don’t need another ‘thing’ we have to go to. That’s what I really do appreciate about #thinkndrink. I don’t have to go, but I want to. These are people I would hang out with anyway, really.

We're often asked to explain the difference between #thinkndrink and one of the other Portland Friday meetups, Beer and Blog. Bret Bernhoft (@Bret_Bernhoft) did an audio interview about this very subject just recently...you can check it out here. If you’re curious about #thinkndrink and Beer and Blog, give them both a shot.

#thinkndrink regulars are also a handsome group. Seriously. I’ve got proof!

If you haven't checked us out (and you think we're your kind of people), feel free to stop by some Friday...we don’t bite. Although, we have had four #thinkndrink family babies all born within three months of each other. There’s obviously a whole lot a love goin’ around.

Thanks to all of you who've come out over the past year. I think I can speak for everyone who's attended when I say...it's been a pleasure.

Cheers to one year of thinking and drinking #thinkndrink!

 I Don't Follow You — Maybe You're Just Plain Weird

I Don't Follow You — Maybe You're Just Plain Weird

If you’re on Twitter, you have a follow strategy. You might not know you have a strategy, but you do. I’m often asked about mine, so, here goes....

I break ‘follow strategy’ down into four categories:

I pursue people and brands who:

  • I like, want to support and stay connected to
  • are local (most of them)
  • are creative thinkers in graphic design, web and social media
  • are leading the way in sustainability and innovative eco solutions

I follow back people and brands who:

  • are all of the above and...
  • Tweet content that is authentic, genuine and inspiring
  • engage their audience, talking with rather than at

I don’t follow back people and brands who:

  • talk at their audience instead of with their audience
  • I don’t share something in common with (i.e. professional, hobbies, etc.)

I block people and brands who:

  • have no information in their profile
  • have no Tweets. (Tip: If you’re going to build an audience, provide some content, then pursue followers.)
  • Tweet only quotes, links, sales pitches, et al.
  • Spam me
  • have a frightening avatar
  • seem just plain weird

Do you have a Twitter follow strategy? What is it?

Good Branding Baked To Perfection

Good Branding Baked To Perfection

I met the smartest entrepreneur on the Mexican Riviera. The Purple Cow of Puerto Vallarta. A true marketing genius.

After spending two weeks in Puerto Vallarta, “No gracias” rolled off my tongue faster than “Donde esta el baño?” or “Una margarita por favor”. The beach, Old Town and the Malecón swarm with locals peddling everything from jewelry, to pottery, to blankets, dresses and temporary tattoos. Some beautiful items, but fifteen minutes of bartering will most likely get you a more expensive deal on a product made in China (defeating the purpose of truly supporting the local economy) than you’d pay at your home-based import store. More than ten vendors per hour will greet you under your favorite thatched roof beach palapa, all pitching the same “unique” souvenirs, the same way…

“Jewelry señorita?” — “How many you want?” — “Almost free!”

So you can only imagine my surprise, and delight, the day I met the Muffin Man. Dressed in white, 30-something, sun-kissed, unusually shiny white smile, nicely groomed ponytail, rectangular pan of freshly baked, and still warm, muffins balanced atop his head, secured by the grip of one arm.

“Muffin Maaaan! Come and get your muffins!”

Chocolate. Banana. Coconut. Orange.

No bartering. 15 pesos each (about $1.25).

Sold.

Not only does the Muffin Man sell out of muffins each morning, tourists wait on the beach for him from 10am until noon (guilty) for the chance to soak their teeth into one of his delicious delights. And it isn’t unusual for hotel patrons to order light on their breakfast at the beachside café in order to save room for the Muffin Man’s deliveries.

I doubt we’ll ever find the Muffin Man speaking at any business or marketing conferences (although that’s not a bad idea — watch out Seth Godin). But, as entrepreneurs, marketers, creators and innovators, we can learn some important lessons from his success:

  • Find an opportunity/need, and create your product or service to fill that opportunity/need
  • Be different. What “everyone’s doing” isn’t necessarily what everyone else wants.
  • Be better.
  • Provide quality.
  • Know your market. Be where they are.
  • Value your product/service. If you do, your audience will too.
  • Make it simple. Avoid overdesigning, overadvertising, overdoing.
  • Show pride and passion in your business. Excitement is contagious.
  • Rely on, and don’t be afraid of, social marketing. Fans will talk. Let them.

Whether you’re in the muffin, music or magic business…the concepts outlined above are the same. If it works for the Muffin Man, it can work for you.