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Part of Marketing is Knowing Who You Are

Posted on : 30-12-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Leadership, Marketing

Tags: ,


First I hope everyone experienced an amazing year this past year and is looking ahead to an even better 2011.  I started this post to be the typical well wishes and a handful of predictions for the year ahead, but in some ways that gets so passé.  But then last night and today a topic hit home and I decided that was a more appropriate post to end the year with.  I will still throw a few predictions at the end of this post.

So yesterday @BarryMoltz Twittered out “Can you celebrate others achievements without comparing them to your own?”  I quickly responded “sure. I am not trying to be them, I am trying to be me. I would be happy for their success.”  This conversation was followed up today by a post I really enjoyed by Chris Brogan “The Evolution of Chris Brogan.”  In the post Chris describes what his true brand is and what he is all about.  It was interesting reading his history.  I first noticed the post on Facebook and I posted the following response:

“The key is you are you and I respect that. Too many strive to be others when the key is be comfortable with yourself and achieving your goals. Thanks for writing this. It is a topic on my mind as well, although not who is Chris! Happy new year and continued success”

The one challenge to posting a comment to a Chris Brogan Facebook post is I receive a lot of emails with comments from others (I know I can turn that off, but I typically enjoy it. Of course Chris receives more comments than most people I know).  One of the comments was negative toward the post, asking Chris to focus less on himself and more on Chris’ knowledge of marketing.  To me the post was exactly about Chris’ knowledge of marketing and relayed a lot of information to the reader of what Chris has learned over the years, the value he offers his readers, his business value in this changing world and what his businesses are offering to non-profits and businesses that wish to hire them.

We also learn another, more human aspect, that ties into the Twitter conversation I had last night with Barry.  We are all a product of our history, and that is what makes us special.  There is never a need to try to be someone we are not or try to be someone else.  Every year we get the chance to evolve, learn, grow, and in some cases step back.  This is the best part of being human.  One of the biggest things I learned this year is I am happy being me.  There have been times where I contemplated where I was headed, even tried to emulate people I was not.  I think this is all part of the growing process.  I joked a lot over the past year that I was trying to decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, but it really was not a joke.  I was debating in my own mind and which path was the right one for me.  You see Customer Service professionals are not always looked upon as highly as they should.  This is part of my history and adds to this quest to be more.  Today as I write this I have come to respect that I am a service visionary and I have been provided a forum to help lead a change in the way business views the Customer.   I am not only comfortable with this, it is who I am, and I am proud of it.

Knowing who you are is key to marketing yourself, just as knowing what your business stands for is key to marketing your business.

Now I promised a few predictions for the year ahead, so here they are:

  • DOWNTURN IN SOCIAL – To the surprise of many but I expect a dip in social media activity, especially on Facebook and Twitter for at least two quarters next year.  This will not last long, but the everyday person using social media will have privacy concerns and will step back to determine how they wish to use the space
  • TWITTER SELLS – By the end of 2011 Twitter will be forced to sell as they continue to strive to build a sustainable financial model, investors will want to see a return on investment
  • TRADITIONAL MARKETERS BACK AWAY – Many marketers are still looking for that silver bullet marketing concept, and when they can not hit the magic mark, social will not appear as sexy as it does today
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE – We will see improvements from many companies as they start to focus more on the Customer experience.  We will also see a dramatic rise in the number of companies who have Chief Customer Officers as part of the C-Suite
  • SOCIAL TOOLS – We will continue to see a rise in the number of tools for social media, but the market will begin to mature and we will see a consolidation and reduction in the number of players for listening platforms.  The rise will be in CRM variations and visual analysis.
  • THE APP WORLD – I know many loves apps, but with so many variations in devices we will see a revamped effort of companies to focus on mobile web experiences, which will be easier to accomplish than multiple versions of apps

I have a great piece of real estate to sell you….

Posted on : 22-11-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

Tags: , , , , , ,


Throughout time we have seen irrational exuberance (As former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once stated).  You can easily look back to the gold rush, numerous times in the stock market, real estate a few years ago, gold and bonds today.  Can social media being seeing similar irrational exuberance?

This has been a thought I have had for some time.  I have been watching and talking to numerous businesses over the years but I have seen a shift in their emotions from a little fearful to today where I worry many businesses are being taken advantage of.  What has changed?  Many companies have started in social and realized it is not as fearful as they once thought so now they want to take advantage of the space and make real money from it.  Also because there is much interest from the C-suite, many people in business want to prove how smart they are.  I also think there is some blame that goes to many ad agencies and PR firms who are selling social to firms without providing the insight necessary.

Recently Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group put out a new report about the Social Media Strategist role.  I highly recommend reviewing it.  It provides a little insight into the difficulties of the role.  Many times you are dealing with this irrational exhuberence throughout different silo’s within the company.  Putting out the fire for every person that want to create that next Facebook page or create that ‘viral’ marketing campaign.  C.C. Chapman put out a post on Friday after hearing a preview on the Today Show stating:  “Our most ambitious viral video ever coming up this half hour.” I did not get the chance to see the show, but with that quote alone I know they did not understand social.  Make sure you check out his post and when you have time read his new book Content Rules (it is co-authored with David Meerman Scottand friend Ann Handley, @Marketingprofs).  If you want to create something viral, first rule is you do not decide what goes viral, your audience does.  It is also important to offer something that is unique (first wins in social) and finally it really should offer something to the viewer or others and not focus as much on the brand.  They also tend to be fun.  A few good examples are the Swagger Wagon videos by Toyota, Blendtech: Will it blend, Old Spice Guy.  So next time your marketing, PR firm, or internal employee talks about creating the next viral campaign, I urge caution.  If you are in a position where someone asks you to create one, it is very important that you educate the people asking.  Are you sure you want to be the social strategist?

Even the best laid out ideas can easily fail.  The question is how much risk does the organization want to take?  What is the appetite for risk and failure?  How connected are they to their Customers? 

Beyond the viral marketing angle, I have other concerns I have noticed increasing in the past few years.  I have seem a large interest in engaging ‘influencers’ with the belief this will make the message grow.  First there is a myth when it comes to this term.  First I believe many organizations by the way they have engaged people have created poor expectations with this group by treating them differently.  I highly recommend treating them as any other Customer.  Special treatment creates further expectation of special treatment.  This is not sustainable.  This is a topic I can discuss forever, but my focus was influencers do not create viral actions, good content is what creates it.  Many of you know of a famous video from my prior employer with a sleep technician.  Did you know that it was posted by someone with only 2 videos posted?  That became a huge brand influencer.  What has made many people rise to the ranks to be considered an influencer has been strong content.  If you want your brand to rise up, provide strong content, great Customer experience and the best products.  This will create the viral effect you want.

Finally I have a fear that some companies are putting too much money toward a variety of social efforts with unreal expectations, or because they simply do not know better.  This is being caused by social strategists, PR and marketing firms alike.  They are asking for large number of employees for tasks that could be done by a few, or large dollars for campaigns that do not go anywhere, etc.  For those of us who believe social is a key communications tool of the future, and in many cases now, it is imperative that we set the right goals, and create the right expectations.  This helps us all by creating trust and showing the right business acumen to ensure long term success.  There are many PR/marketing firms who have done very well for the companies they serve, including companies like Edelman, Weber Shandwick and many others.  I also have the utmost respect for anyone who has the Social Strategist role, because as you can tell from this post, it is not easy.

Social Media Business Evolution Part 1: Culture

Posted on : 10-03-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

Tags: , ,


Tomorrow I will be speaking at the Social Business Summit in Austin, TX.  This pre-event for SxSW, which starts on Friday, is being presented by Dachis Group.  Dachis is a great example of a company striving to work in this new transparent environment.  Have you ever checked out the Dachis website?  They strive to be so transparent that they have developed a scroll on their website that shows exactly what they are doing.  For example if a member of the team tweets a message, it will show up.  It will even say when they are emailing someone and the domain they are emailing (not the name or full email address).  I am looking forward to this event, because the topic is fun, culture change within businesses.  I am also looking forward to seeing people like Charlene Li, who I have never met in person.  Her book Open Leadership is about to come out, and I know it will be great.

Anyway, over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of reading, probably one of the causes for not posting as much as I would like.  I hope to start putting a lot of these pent up thoughts into posts over the next few weeks.  One of the things I have realized is their are a lot of diverse thoughts on all aspects of social media and how companies will incorporate it.  First these varying opinions are great discussion points and will help define this going forward.  At the same time, I believe many are putting the cart before the horse.  People within social media tend to love the speed of information, transparency, personal control, and the ability to see their thoughts take off.  Also those of us in social media tend to see how these benefits can impact the world.  Many see it as an revolutionary transformation, as it has been for themselves.  For businesses though, it still needs to be more of an evolutionary change, otherwise many of the positive benefits will be lost.  This change will take place at different rates of speed, and most likely in different ways based on the organization (and the people that make up that organization, including Customers).

I have read in a number of sources that businesses should not be involved in social media until they have the right culture.  This typically is centered around the free flow of information as well as trust in employees that is required in the space.  I this spirit I should admit I have sometimes been in this camp too.  Here is a funny, true story.  I have spoken to numerous organizations about social media and how I have used the space.  There is only 1 company that I did not help when requested.  The reason for this was before they were willing to chat, they wanted me to sign a non-disclosure agreement that was very lengthy.  I really did not want to read through the entire thing, and I personally felt if they were requiring that from an unpaid consultant such as myself they probably were not ready for the space.

The more I have learned about social media, I have realized the culture change that people reference is starting to happen, but it does not have to be fully embraced for a company to begin in social media.  First employees, just based on the numbers, are already participating in social media through Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter and so the list goes on.  Don’t kid yourself, they are already representing the brand and generating their own culture change.  They are also taking on more say over the brand due to this.  This is why I sometimes refer to social media as the “disorganized labor movement.”  Customers are within social media discussing your products, how they use them and their thoughts on your business, this is commonly referred to as the Groundswell.  This can be positive or negative, but they are talking (I will have an upcoming post that discusses this).  Customer are also forcing this culture change.

Companies are going to move in different ways to embrace social media.  From my perspective I have seen the first efforts to be within marketing or public relations/communications.  What has happened as companies have done this, they were forced to evolve strategies to effectively meet the demands from Customer and employees.  This has meant a shift to more transparent discussions and more areas of the business being involved, such as Customer Service and senior leadership.  Most of these companies did not have the transparent culture prior to this happening, but it was forced upon them.  So for those that say right culture is required first, should observe these evolutionary patterns and understand that culture change will happen because of social media, but it is not required as a point of entry.

Here is what is really required.  First it requires visionaries that can see benefits within social media.  It really does not matter from which silo it comes from.  This also does not require full support from everyone, but it will require at least one high level supporter.  The reason you need support from one high level person is because as this evolves, some of the old school leaders will be scared and may try to cause the organization to take steps back.  Fear of something new is natural, and the reason some leaders fear it, is because they lose some sense of control.  It will also highlight deficiencies within the organization, and it may even involve their area of expertise.  As time goes on, more and more people within the organization will embrace it.  I always joke that all senior leaders are from Missouri, the “show me” state.  They need to be able to touch and feel things.  I know many have struggled with “metrics” within this space, but that is not the best way to touch and feel things.  The true benefit is you can easily show leaders what is happening in the space, reaction and what, as an organization you are learning.  The fact is they can be shown Twitter search, Google Blogsearch, Facebook search, or other easy to use tools.  They can touch and feel it themselves.

As part of this discussion of culture change, some also say the entire organization must have a strong Customer focus before entering this space.  I disagree with this too.  The reason I disagree, is this space will assist companies on their focus on the Customer.  It is difficult for senior leaders to listen to every call, or view every email, but as I mentioned above they can easily follow the discussion regarding the brand.  As we know this is a space controlled by the Customer, and they will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly.  The difference is anyone can easily search this information and learn from it.  I have never met a senior leader who wanted to create a bad experience for a Customer.  Before it is pointed out by others, I do recognize there are sometimes natural conflicts, such as price, but they never wanted anyone to not be helped when help is required.   This space will create the change within any company just by simply listening.

I applaud any company for being involved in social media.  Even if they may not be taking the best direction, I recognize that this space will force their evolution and they will become stronger participants because of it.  So my feedback to the experts in the space, just give it time; your  visions will be recognized by many companies.

The Customer, not the Company Defines How Products are Used

Posted on : 03-02-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Marketing


I have a lot of respect for Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi.  She has done a lot to help the brand and grow the business of Pepsi.  The video above was on CNBC the other day.  It was a feel good story of the introduction of the Pepsi Refresh Project.  This is a social giving initiative in which Pepsi is putting up $20 million dollars and allowing everyone to vote on which initiatives will receive a cut of the money.  It is a great idea and I am sure the money will assist many charities in need.  I know I plan to vote each month.  But the interview took an interesting turn that I think is a learning experience for many of us.  Here is what happened:

At 2:00 minutes the CNBC host, Mark Haines asks if Pepsi will always be in second place to Coke.  Ms. Nooyi gives a good response regarding the diverse nature of the Pepsi brand, including Frito Lay, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Tropicana, etc.  This leads to a conversation about the recent rebranding of Gatorade, basically moving back to what it was founded on, a sports drink.  This is where it gets interesting to me.  She then points out that Gatorade is a drink for the “athlete to be used in active thirst.”  She  states for a period of time people defined active thirst as sitting on the couch watching TV because they loved the taste of Gatorade.  She went on to explain that when the economy took the down turn, those casual drinkers could not afford the brand.  After stating this she said in an emphatic way, ‘Thank God.”  They are now taking Gatorade back to the core user and innovating the product for the active user.  Mark Haines goes on to ask if they are going to post guards to prevent couch potatoes from buying the brand.  Ms. Nooyi responded that couch potatoes are welcome to buy the brand provided they get out and exercise, then they can have the drink.

Now I wish I was more active, but I tend to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, working or watching the kids.  I am sorry Ms. Nooyi would not welcome me as a Customer.  I was a good one, especially with the large powdered Gatorade I have in my pantry (I wonder if Ms. Nooyi would refund the cost since she does not want me to have it?)  My original point for this post was to show how easy it is for someone to accidentally say something that could upset long time Customers.  I have been a long time drinker of Gatorade, in what seems like a galaxy far far away, I played tennis with my best friend Jason.  After a few matches I would really enjoy a large Gatorade (Jason, we should do that again in the spring!).  But I think there is a larger point in that the Customer is really the one who defines that brand, not marketing research, CEO or anyone else.  If a Customer likes the product, the company should just be grateful to have them.

I am sorry Ms. Nooyi if you do not want me to be a Customer of Gatorade.  Actually I am sure she does, and this was more poor word choice, but you can see how that impression can be created.

From the Pantry

From the Pantry

Customer Service as the New Marketing?

Posted on : 14-01-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Marketing, Social Media


Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK. – Don Draper, Mad Men Season 1 Episode 1

Today advertising is not creating that happiness, it is relationships and connections we have with others.  Messages no longer come from the company, but instead from friends, family and people we have never met.  How will a company work to get their message through?

I am always thinking about Customer Service and what it will look like as we move forward.  It is interesting to see how the economy alone has started to shift thinking at many companies.  Have you seen the latest Chase Sapphire commercial?

Now I know credit card companies are not really known for service, especially due to the negative risk based decision we know they make.  At the same time I used to work in that business and at the time companies were looking at ways to differentiate themselves using Customer Service.  This commercial reminded me of the efforts we made at my prior company, at least prior to the shift in the economy (and the company going bankrupt).  Now Chase is creating a product to try to meet the new demands of Customers regarding service.  I am sure many of you are tired of the automated answering systems, well as this ad points out, for this product when you call you get a real life person.  I did try a different Chase card, and with that number I still receive the automated answering.

I have discussed previously that we are entering a different time in Customer relations, and the control has shifted to the Customer.  Since the 1950’s marketing has been king, the message was dictated by the company through ads, especially in TV.  “Mad Men” told us what we like and how we like it.  The right advertisement did it all, even if the product was not up to par.  But then came Amazon, and other websites like it.  Today a product comes out and almost immediately reviews start to pile in on websites.  This completely changed how people buy virtually any product.  I know for myself, I could be in a store and before buying I will go to Amazon and read reviews, as well as Google the item to find other reviews.

So what does Amazon reviews have to do with Customer Service?  Well a lot!  It is part of an overall picture that has been painted over a number of years.  Marketing was king, but now the Customer is king and companies have to learn the best ways to deal with that.  For a long time, if you lost a Customer, strong marketing would bring in 10 others in their place.  But today you lose a Customer they have the ability to easily tell thousands.  Customers have grown tired of not being able to be serviced the first time, and by banning together through social networking, their word of mouth will force companies to rethink the cost reductions done in service over the past 20 years.  There will be a true ROI for providing best in class service.

Maybe in 45 years we will see a retro show about the Customer Service leaders?  Probably not, that would be very boring.

The Social Media Fire, Will It Change Corporate Culture?

Posted on : 07-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, In the News, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This is the third attempt for me writing this post.  This morning I woke up and read my email like I do every morning.  One of the emails was a Google alert with a reference to this San Francisco Chronicle article about “Social Media Going Corporate.”  In the article it stated the following:

At Comcast, employee Frank Eliason took the initiative last year to use his own Twitter account to contact customers who were tweeting about service problems. Now known as “Famous Frank,” Eliason has been credited with almost single-handedly turning around Comcast’s reputation. He heads a staff of 11 who monitor social networks and offer help to customers.

During a question-and-answer session at last month’s Web 2.0 conference, Comcast’s Roberts said the Twitter strategy has played a big part in changing the corporate culture “from inside the organization, not just the top down.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/07/BU341ACLD3.DTL#ixzz0WE9gWzSR

In my opinion the change in culture was due to so many people inside and outside the organization.  Some of the people I work with I give huge credit to the change, including my team, Rich Roberts (my former boss, now VP of Customer Care in Atlanta), Tina Waters (SVP and my boss), Rick Germano (SVP of National Customer Service), Jenn Khoury, (VP, Corporate Communications), and D’Arcy Rudnay (SVP, Corporate Communications).  But it was so many more than these individuals.  Team members throughout the organization, from techs, Customer Service representatives, managers, directors, and VPs from all area contributed.  Our Customers, who are very passionate about our products, and simply want a great experience to go with it.  As Rick likes to say “They are cheering us on, because they want us to get  it right.”  In dealing with so many, I can say Rick is correct, they do love our products and they want the opportunity to cheer for us, we just need to make sure we deliver on that.  This post is not about Comcast, but for those that do not know, I agree our culture has changed.  I have been seeing first hand, including changes in reporting structure, new systems, the implementation of the Customer Guarantee and the overall attitude of the company has shifted to be about the Customer experience.  In fact the new corporate credo is:

“We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day.  Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer friendly and reliable service in the market”

I am sure some will say they have not experienced this fully yet, but I will tell you a lot is being done to ensure you do.  You will be cheering!  Internally the conversation is always about the Customer experience and how to make sure we get it right.  I see a much different place than when I started 2 years ago.  I do not believe it was due to me, but a lot of the discussions in various spaces that started to come together at the same time.  Many of the discussions supported greater transparency, Customer focus, and an environment that questioned how things were being done.  As this took shape, the culture of the company changed.

So I wrote this post numerous times I kept singing in my head the following lyrics:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Aren’t these words so fitting regarding social media and corporate America?  Now I was not around when the phone joined the business world, but I can imagine someone saying they do not need a phone on their desk.  Yet today, many of us carry our work phone wherever we are.  I would imagine in the marketing space similar discussions happened with the transition from newspaper to radio to TV.  I remember email coming out and much debate over providing email access to all employees.  Today, I have work email 24/7 on my iPhone.  Even funnier was the reaction to using email for Customer Service.  Today who would not think to email a company for service?  Same was true regarding allowing employees having internet access on their desk.  This was done, but then many site were blocked due to productivity.  Of course I work on email at night and weekends, why would their be a problem if I updated Facebook at work?  So lets allow the song to continue:

Telephone, radio’s playing, newspapers, TV’s talking,
email, googling, paying bills, Pandora playing
Facebook Mafia wars, Blog updates galore
Following more Twitter stars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Social media is about relationships, and ultimately relationships are good for businesses and employees.  Will social media change corporate culture?  Well have other forms of communication?  I believe phone, email and the internet have already changed the culture for everyone, especially businesses.  With each new form of communication we gain efficiency and we find new ways to speak with Customers.  Can you imagine someone typing and copying memos?  Ugh, I would hate that.  For those that say Twitter and Facebook take away from the efficiency of the workers, the same was said about email and internet access.  I bet it was also said about phone too (oh no, a family member better not call).  Social media has made the world a smaller place (there are numerous examples of this) and I know it can make the business world smaller too.

Be Careful How You Market Your Product!

Posted on : 05-10-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Marketing, Social Media


I have been meaning to write this post since an event I was at last week.  One of the brand marketers had a great presentation that I agreed with many of the points, but one was, in my opinion, the wrong approach.  I am not mentioning the brand on purpose but I have a lot of respect for the presenter and the work they have done bringing their company to a new level in social media.

Well the reason I am writing this post now is because the NY Times posted an interesting article titled “F.T.C to Rule Bloggers Must Give Full Disclosure.”  I have never been a fan of giving bloggers products, or in the case of the presentation I was at, rewarding those that speak highly for your product.  The reason is easy, once I heard the company rewarded positive commentary, I no longer believed any positive post I have ever read about the company.  I now questioned the true motives of anyone that has ever posted about them.  I remember about 6 months ago I was approached by marketers (that did not work for my company) wanting me to identify bloggers and provide free products.  They were offended by my simple one word answer “No.”  The reason was not because I do not want people to see the great products from my company.  It also was not that I was afraid of what they may say, but it was really about what people may think if they did say something positive and someone later found out.

I admit, I am cheap and would love free stuff, but if you offer it, please do not expect a blog post.  Ultimately it would hurt my own credibility and that of the brand.  I will admit that I was invited to an event to receive free products and listen to pitches from people.  I was tempted to go, but I declined.  My temptation was to see the product and to truthfully people watch.  But it did not fit in with my own belief structure for the social web.

I am not a fan of government regulation in this area.  My preference would be to see the blogosphere self regulate this, but at the same time for events like the one I was invited to or presentations mentioning rewards for good commentary, we are not doing as good of a job as we should.  I expect many will disagree with my thoughts, especially those within the marketing field, but I will say, from experience, allow your Customers to say the good and bad.  Listen to them and continually work to improve your product to meet the Customer desires.  For the bloggers, I understand the temptation for free products, but think about your own credibility and long term potential.  It is so important to be true to who you are.  That will bring the best long term results.

Land of the Misfit Toys

Posted on : 26-09-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Marketing, Personal, Social Media


I tend not to post when I have a lot on my mind that I am trying to work through.  Sometimes it may be personal, other times work or even career.  In the past few years I have had a lot of new things happening in my life that cause me to ponder many things, especially about the future.  Recently I have been thinking about my own career path and what it all means.  Social media has added an interesting realm to my life and I am not going to say it hasn’t brought struggles too.  I strive to be as open as possible with things, but sometimes you have to come to conclusions on your own.

I love leading the way, whether it be with a team or a movement for Customer Service.  I never strive for the status quo, especially with work.  We all need to continually evolve our abilities and companies need to broaden their horizons to meet an ever changing Customer.  My style is not playing politics but instead concentrating on the Customer story and what is in front of me at the time.  Sometimes in doing this people that are close to the process work off of their own historical information.   I am lucky to work with many that have great experience in the cable and telecommunications industry; I learn a lot from them every day.  My background is financial services, which provides more of an outsider view.  Sometime this makes me feel like a misfit.

I talk to many businesses regarding their efforts in social media.  In fact I have been approached by many companies about helping them build their efforts.  Most companies channel their social media through marketing or PR.  It is funny the reaction I receive when I tell them that I am just a simple Customer Service guy.  The marketers tend to be so stuck on the brand and sales, so they do not always see the community and relationship aspects in the space.  I have many friends in marketing that have built a similar view as mine, but they are already successful in the space.  Some in PR concentrate on the message as opposed to the relationship.  My view is this space is about the Customers, helping, listening and having conversations with them.  So as I talk to these different companies I recognize what a misfit that I may be.

I then look at all my friends in social media and I realize how different we all are.  It is these differences that make social media such a great place and a way to hear others perspectives.  As I was sitting pondering recent events, my own place in life, and how we all connect, I started to realize we are all in this place of misfit toys creating a home for all to enjoy no matter who they are, what they have been through, or where they are heading.  Being this misfit is a trophy we all carry because we are leading and doing things in a different manner.  Whether we are doing this online, at work, or within our home life we are carving this new path.  The misfit toys have found their home with each other.

Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents?

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


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

Tags: , ,


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?