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@Your Service » 2009 » August

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NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...

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Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...

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Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...

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Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...

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Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...

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I Have This Trust Agent, Now What Do I Do?

Posted on : 27-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media

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During my travels over the past few weeks I have had many discussions with people on many intriguing topics.  Many will become blog posts in the coming weeks.  One of the topics of conversation with Brian Solis can be summed up on his blog post “Who Owns Social Media.”  I fully agree with his post, with the exception of one word: influencers.  This is because I believe in this new world order, ALL Customers have the ability to be influencers.  Of course that will have to be a post for another day.  It is always fun to see friends and continue hotly debatable conversations.  One topic that kept recurring resulted from my last blog post “Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents.”  The discussion referenced Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s New York Times best seller “Trust Agents.”  Speaking of trust agents, I want to wish Jeremiah Owyang and Deb Schultz well with their new positions with Charlene Li at Altimeter Group.  I am sure he will see continued success.

I did not intend to continue the trust agent conversation from the prior post, but it seems to have warranted more attention.  I will take a stab at it in another post.  As discussed in that post, trust agents will happen whether supported by the company or not.  The fact is employees are already out there.  Some of the recent discussions were about branding of individuals verses the corporate brand.  I have a firm belief that social media is about individuals and relationships; it is hard to have a relationship with a logo.  Part of this belief stems from my Customer Service background.  I am not aware of any company that does not attempt to personalize a call with the name of the agent.  Even emails from companies are usually signed by someone.  Why should social media be any different?

The larger conversations investigate what a company can do when the groundswell is attracted to a trust agent representing the brand.  What do they do to prevent them from leaving, or losing equity if they do leave?  I am going to attempt to provide some thoughts to assist companies that may find themselves in this position.   The best approach starts by encouraging all of your employees to be a part of social media.  Many are probably out there already.  Hopefully you are building multiple trust agents associated with your brand.  If one decides to leave, you will have many others still out there helping your Customers and further strengthening the brand.  This has been my approach.  For those that pay attention you will notice that I am not on Twitter as much as I was when we first started these efforts.  This is to allow my employees to earn the trust of many people out there.  This is their opportunity to become trust agents.

There are other ways companies may want to consider protecting their interest with these trust agents.  Nothing fancy, but simply using reward and recognition tools and tactics that have been available to businesses for years.  First it all starts with respect and fairness.  Understand your employees and what drives them.  Some are driven for the “fame” and they will be thrilled that they are being recognized.  Others may be motivated by the job itself, and helping Customers.  Some may like to take on additional responsibility.  Reward them with that, they will continue to be happy with the organization.  There will be some that will be driven more financially.  This is a little bit harder, especially in tough economic conditions.  The trouble is everyone feels they are worth well more to the organization then maybe what is reality.  Here you have to be a little more careful in your assessment.  What is the value to your competitor to have someone like this person on their staff?  Is there a market for this individual?  What is the lost value if the person leaves the organization?  Is there a way that you can develop a contract with this person to ensure they stay?  This could also be a way to limit where the trust agent may go, if they do decide to leave.  Vested stock options are another way a company can strive to maintain a relationship with a trust agent for years to come.  These questions have to be thought through, but this is true of anyone that is a asset to a company, no matter the position.  As you can see this is nothing new, companies are always striving to retain top performers.  The only difference here the deciding factor is more due to the groundswell then internal assessment.  Social media does cause companies to lose a little control to the groundswell, but the right tactics will ensure continued success for most organizations.

What would you do to retain a trust agent?

Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents?

Posted on : 17-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media

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Well, ready or not, here they come!  This topic has been on my mind for ages.  With Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book out and Chris mentioning on his blog, I thought today was the right day to do it.

While at a marketing conference as a guest on a panel regarding Customer Service through Social Media, I started thinking about trust agents.  We heard introductions from each person.  The last panelist was a marketing professional from a very well known online bank.  He seemed like a really good guy.  During his introduction he mentioned how it was all about the brand, and the discussion must center around the brand.  I have heard this so often, typically from marketing people that desire to control the message in social media.  The message is really a conversation.  I tend not to speak with a logo, but rather the person.  The reason why certain people and brands are successful in social media is because they recognize that fact.  Even brands like @Starbucks and @Jetblue let the personality and the person behind the tweets shine through.  We’re all learning about the brand through the people.

Here are six secrets to being a trust agent:

  1. Are you making your own game? (Are you following or writing the new path?)
  2. Are you one of us? In the trenches and engaged in conversation in Social Media for your brand.
  3. Do you understand the Archimedes Effect?  Do you understand how to take what youre doing in one instance and extend it out into something bigger or better elsewhere?
  4. Are you Agent Zero to several networks?
  5. Do you relate well to others?
  6. Are you ready to build armies? Working solo is easy. Do you share what you know to promote larger interactions?

Displaying some or all of these characteristics in social media suggests that you may be a Trust Agent.  This is not necessarily a role or title assigned by a company.  Nor can a company control the message of this person.  This is someone leading the way in this new medium call Social Media.  These are not the numerous self proclaimed experts, but truly the ones that are leading the way in thoughts and actions.

Chris has referred to me as a Trust Agent, but I can never even come close to some of those that lead the way.  I am not sure I will ever live up to the reputations of:

  • Robert Scoble formerly from Microsoft, now with Fast Company
  • Lionel Menchaca at Dell
  • Pam Finnie at HP
  • Matt Cutts at Google
  • Kathy Sierra

This brings me back to the point of the post, we are still at an age where various “brand” professionals are doing what they can to control the conversation and the message.  They are missing the point, but I am not sure why since it has been out there for a long time.  Right now I am reading Brian Solis’ latest book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.  When I look back at some of Brian’s earlier work he was predicting this loss of control, and the need for companies to enter the conversation from a very different perspective.  Beyond all the expert opinion, the Trust Agent may not always build up their reputation with the permission of the company they work for.  In fact many are in this space now having conversations.  They are becoming the leaders in this new version of marketing.

It is time for companies to step back, realize the conversation is happening, encourage employees to be a part of it, and provide tools to make sure the employees are successful.  This is the right social media plan that every business should have.

Who are some Trust Agents that you know?

The Long Lost Power of Lasting Advertising

Posted on : 16-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing

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With Mad Men starting tonight, I thought it would be fun to talk about vintage advertising.  Of course I did not realize a story would hit me while driving last night.  Do you remember the Spaghettio’s commercial?  “Uh Oh Spaghettio’s”

To help you remember here is a You Tube copy of one of the ads:

Today many companies strive to create commercials that get people talking, but this commercial was marketing basics;  an easy to remember jingle. I am not a marketing person, but really just an everyday consumer. I buy products all the time for a variety of reasons. When it come to kid’s meals I will admit that we purchase what our kids like. We also buy products that make life easy, including bulk purchases at Costco. Because of this, our usual kid’s pasta purchase is Chef Boyardee. But that brings me to the point of this post.

Last night we went to the Grange Fair in Wrightstown, PA. As we were driving home we hit a lot of traffic on the tight streets near the fair. When we saw all the car lights in front of us our 3 year old said “Uh-Oh.” This was followed by our 1 1/2 year old doing the same. With “Uh-Oh” echoing in the back seat I chimed in with “Uh Oh Spaghettios.” This caused Lily to repeat it numerous time, although she kept saying “Uh Oh the Spaghettios.” As we were driving we were helping Lily say “Uh Oh Spaghettios.” Of course this brought a question from her, “what are Spaghettios?” So we told her. On the way home we were stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few things. While we were there we picked up a few cans of Spaghettios. Well of course for lunch today, everyone can guess what Lily wanted. She had her first can of Spaghettios and Lily and Robyn loved it.

All this from a slogan I have not seen on TV in a long time. What other slogans can you think of with lasting power like that?

Advertiser vs Consumer

Posted on : 07-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business

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I had other plans for posts this week, but things do get hectic at times.  Wednesday night I did a panel discussion and I was reminded of one of my favorite videos on You Tube, so I decided to share it here.  It cracks me up that it was created my Microsoft.  Enjoy!

Part of Leadership is Giving Back

Posted on : 04-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized

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This is a post I wrote for the Comcast corporate blog, Comcast Voices. It was originally posted on August 3, 2009.  I am posting here because I will be doing a follow up post based on the same leadership program.

This year Ive had the privilege to be a part of a leadership training program at Comcast called the Fundamentals of Leadership. The training brings in both internal and external thought leaders to help educate the future leaders within the company. I am one of about 45 others that were selected to be part of the 2009 class.

A large part of the culture of Comcast is giving back to communities, and it is important for leaders within the organization to demonstrate this. The training was a lot of work but I loved the intimate conversations with people like Steve Burke, COO of Comcast. One of the speakers that had the greatest impact on me was Colonel Robert L. Gordon III from City Year. I didnt know much about this organization but now I am so proud of what they have accomplished. They even have 2 members of their organization going through the training. During the next session I will ask them if I can feature them on the blog.

We also did our own little community project during the initial 3 days of training. We went to Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and learned about their “Reach Out and Read program. From there we went into the hospital, met with families and read to the children. This was more personal to me based on prior time in the hospital. I loved seeing the kids light up simply because we were taking the time to read with them. There was one little boy where a bunch of us sat on the floor and played cars for the longest time. The mother and son had a lot of fun and were able to forget, for a little while at least, some of what they were going through.

As the first session of training concluded, we were assigned our first project: create, manage and implement a project for Comcast Cares Day which was happening a little over a month away. This was difficult because many of us, including myself, had already planned to participate in that day in other ways. I wanted to find a way to teach non-profits about using social media. We decided this would need to be a stand alone project from the Comcast Cares Day event. While I was at the Comcast Cares Day I was so jealous of the great work done by so many people in the class. They were doing everything from beautifying neighborhoods to providing a piece of home to our troops.

Now the little project I had in mind has grown tremendously, thanks to the efforts of Jorge Alberni, Scott McNulty and many others. We recently launched the website for the Comcast New Media Exchange, which will be held on August 4th and 5th. It includes great speakers like Josh Bernoff, best selling co-author of Groundswell and Andrew Bleeker, the New Media Director for President Barrack Obamas Inaugural Committee. It also includes friends like Pete Blackshaw, Scott McNulty and Chris Krewson. Special to my heart is Jay Scott from Alexs Lemonade Stand. Im also really looking forward to hearing Colonel Gordon again. If you have time make sure you log on to hear him speak, he is amazing.

The event in Philadelphia is by invitation only (really due to space), but it all will be broadcast live on the net for free. Check it out at www.comcastnewmediaexchange.com.

A Twitter Warning…

Posted on : 03-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : In the News, Social Media, Technology

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In today’s Wall Street Journal there are 2 interesting articles about Twitter. The first is one that really emphasizes what I have said for a long time, Twitter is the early warning system and it is important for companies to watch what is being said. The article features friends Scott Monty from Ford and Bonin Bough from Pepsi. It also features Southwest’s Linda Rutherford and Coke’s Adam Brown. I have a lot of respect for what Linda has done at Southwest. I am not as familiar with Adam’s work, but I will keep a look out. If you have the opportunity check it out the article “For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert a PR Mess.

The second article is what is driving me to write this post.  It does not feature anyone I know, but it emphasizes the information available via Twitter.  Twitter has changed the world and made it much more flat.  News and information is flying faster than ever before.  The article, titled “For Traders, Twitter is One More Trading Tool” (requires online subscription), emphasizes the story of a trader that found information via Twitter.  The first paragraph states:

“When Thomas Grisafi read a “tweet” the afternoon of July 22 complaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had “goofed again,” the president and chief executive of Indiana Grain Co. wondered what prompted the message.”

This prompted Mr. Grisafi to research what the tweet was about and to trade based on the findings.  My fear is this will drive many to start searching Twitter to make riches.  Remember investing is a long term commitment and short term riches are highly unlikely and involve a lot of risk.  Mr. Grisafi obviously knew who this person was, and had trust in the tweets.  He also did a lot of research off of Twitter before committing money.  This is a key aspect to this story and the reason I am writing this.  Twitter search will not lead to quick riches, and research still must be done.  Unfortunately Twitter has many spammers, similar to the junk mail that you find in your inbox each day.  If you are not buying securities based on spam email, be just as cautious about buying them based on a tweet or perceived information.  I am not saying Twitter is not a useful tool, but like anything else be careful of how your react based on the information.  Even if the person may be a trusted source, such as a known CEO, most will be very careful of what they say.  It is also possible that a twitter account can be hacked or just completely false.  Think of the Exxon Twitter example.

This is just a simple Twitter warning, please go about your day!