My contribution to the #MonTwit experiment: What I’ve discovered about Twitter

My Introduction to Twitter

I first heard of Twitter back in early to mid 2007. Here’s what it looked like then.

I looked at the homepage and studied it curiously. “What am I doing? I thought to myself…well, surfing the internet. I’m not sure what value sharing that adds to anyone. And who’s looking at this by the way? I’ve got a family I need to protect.”

I concluded: “Nope. No value here. Maybe I’ll check it out again in a few months.”

I had maybe 2 or 3 similar experiences over the next 6 months. I was intrigued, but still felt that I had better things to do. Quite frankly, at the time, it seemed like the domain of dorks and geeks to me. Shel Israel provides fascinating history and anecdotes about the early days of Twitter in his book “Twitterville”

Roped In

I finally gave in and signed up for an account in late 2007. I found a few of my existing friends and followed them. Most of their tweet streams looked like mine. “Trying this thing out…just got home from work…”, things of that nature. I was beginning to see the value potential, though. There just wasn’t quite critical mass there yet, or so I thought. I just hadn’t learned to listen yet.

By that time, guys like Jeremiah Owyang had already figured Twitter out. By November 2007, he had already created his version of this post.

Fast forward to 2008, and I finally had made my first tweet. How’s that for impressive and engaging?

The lightbulb moment

In late 2008, I took a short drive up to Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, their managers, and the kind folks at 19 Entertainment (creators of American Idol) had graciously donated some auction items to International Princess Project for a fall event we had had. I was dropping off some Punjammies and a personal thank you note. A BIG SHOUT OUT to @adamecourt for making that happen!

(By the way, if you need some last minute Christmas presents and/or want to support a great cause making a huge difference in the lives of some of the most marginalized people on the planet, visit http://www.punjammies.com).

Down the street, also on legendary Sunset Blvd, longtime friend of mine, Elliot Loh, was leading a team of developers at Geni.com and that same group had also created what would become Yammer. He explained to me why they created it and how it benefited them. Knowing what everyone inside their walls were working on helped them to work more collaboratively as a team. It made sense. I don’t remember the quote, but he said something like this: “It’s kind of like watching TV. It’s on in the background, so I know what everyone is working on. If I have something to add or if I need some help, I’ll interject.”

Something clicked at that point for me. I began spending a little more time on Twitter, mostly listening. Separately, I began seriously considering the impact that Social Media would have on business. Specifically, I saw it having direct implications on one of my personal areas of interest and expertise: CRM – Customer Relationship Management. I saw a collision course coming, but didn’t quite know how it would play out.

The Accidental Community is formed

I turned to Twitter (and other sources), and found a small group of like minded individuals from around the globe exploring the same thoughts and ideas. A hashtag had been created by early Social CRM pioneer, Brent Leary. A guy named Prem Kumar Aparanji seemed to never sleep, relentlessly stoking the #scrm fire. An accidental community was formed. An incomplete and growing list of some of these great folks can be found here.

2009 has been a fun ride.

Here are a few things that I’ve discovered about Twitter along the way:

Twitter is the world’s greatest networking environment
I’ve “met” an incredible amount of people through Twitter. Many of these interactions have transitioned to other channels of communication: phone, email, face to face.

Without Twitter, I likely only would have met these people by chance. Twitter gave me the chance to listen to the whole world at one time, filtering global chatter by keywords I was interested in. It is never closed, and anyone can come and go as they please.

Twitter is the world’s best learning environment
If you want to learn, there is no better place. There are people offering valuable information on an infinite amount of topics. Yes, you have to learn how to filter, but once you do, there is a ton out there. The difference between just learning on the web as we have known it previously is that now in many cases, you have direct and immediate access to the creators of the content you learned from. Which leads me into my next point;

– Twitter is a “people sampler”
You can learn a little bit about a lot of people. You can see how they interact. This means that you get a small glimpse of a person through their Twitter interactions. Some you’ll desire to engage with more. Some you’ll pass on. This can be both good and bad.

– Can negatively affect your mature relationships
The ironic thing is that too much time spent on Twitter can negatively affect your mature, existing relationships. The more time one spends on Twitter is time not spent face to face with someone else. Has Twitter helped my marriage? Likely not. Be warned and be wise.

– Can become addicting if you don’t guard your time
The allure of the first two points are pretty attractive for those who are out to conquer the world. The world has never been so accessible. Many of my Twitter friends speak about increased levels of ADD, regretfully pushing high priority items to the back burner, and having to pull themselves away to “go get real work done”. Of course I never struggle with any of these things. (I’m just writing this while my task list is a mile long and Christmas is a few days away).

“Yes, honey, just a couple more minutes…” Sorry friends, but with that, I’ve got to go.

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The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 3)

This is the third and final of a three part post.

We’ve been talking about the AIPEE Pyramid over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t embedded the full image of the AIPEE Pyramid on this post, but if you’d like to take another look, you can click here to have it open in a new window, or review Post 1 and Post 2 in their entirety by clicking on the links.

In Post 1 we introduced you to the AIPEE Pyramid, and pointed your gaze toward the enchanting Blue Circled R – the icon representative of desired destination our prospect’s journey: the R Value Exchange.

The Mysterious and enchanting Blue Circled R

In Post 2, we took a detailed look at the 5 stages of the journey up the pyramid:

AIPEE Pyramid Simple

In today’s third and final post, we are going to focus on the following:

  • The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid
  • The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

(1) The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid

Humans have always been social. We’ve always told our friends, family, acquaintances and business associates about our day, our experiences, our hopes and dreams, who we like and don’t like, etc. Mitch Lieberman expands on this thought in a very worthwhile post titled Social Just Is…

Word of mouth has been around since, well, before words were written. Once upon a time, all communication was word of mouth.

What has changed is how many people we can tell things to in such a short amount of time. Social Technologies are an amplifier. The spreading of ideas, good and bad, and the repercussions of the spread of that information are now exponential.

Good experiences get amplified – an exponential boost to your brand.

Bad experiences, well, can spread like wildfire, and can do significant damage to your brand and reputation in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top negative PR events of 2009.

But really, this isn’t new either. Bad PR stories have been picked up and spread via the press for decades.

What is new is that EVERYBODY is the media. There is no longer a filter. ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have the control over what is worth hearing about. Our peers do. You do. I do. Ashton Kutcher certainly he believes that he does.

Information and Stories that are worth spreading will be spread.

You: “Great Brian. But, what does all of this have to do with the pyramid?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s try and tie these pieces back together.”

Up to this point in the series, we’ve talked about how each prospect, one by one, makes their journey up the pyramid. There is a specialized craft in designing our sales and marketing efforts so that we can add the most value possible at each stage in the initial journey with our prospect.

But what if there was such value in what we shared that our prospects began to amplify and spread our content across their networks, at each and every stage of their journey with us?

Seth Godin expands upon this point in his blog post titled The Big Drop Off:

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it’s remarkable enough to talk about, they’ll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we’re really good, the second circle, the people we don’t even know–they’ll tell the third circle. And it’s the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don’t spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don’t drop off.

GOAL #1: Create and provide maximum value in your content and interactions
GOAL #2: Keep the amplifier in mind. Try and create so much value that people are compelled, almost mandated to share it with their network of friends and associates. Think of it this way: What could you provide to you prospects that would enable them to add value to their network by sharing it?

Hey, I know that most of you are smart savvy innovators – sales, marketing and demand generation geniuses. So let’s fast forward a bit, and assume we’ve done that. We’ve knocked it out of the park. What happens after we get to the R Exchange, and exchange value with our prospect for the first time?

(2) The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

Hopefully the relationship we’ve worked so hard to nurture doesn’t stop there. I’ve highlighted 3 areas where and how further exchange might take place. Let’s briefly touch on each of them.

A. Repeat Transactions

Depending on our business and our previous exchange, we may regularly exchange value in a similar fashion. We may keep getting referrals. We may keep selling the same consumable over and over. The monthly subscription might just keep auto-renewing. It might just take a series of brief, regular “touches” to keep the Value Exchange wheel turning . But remember, in order to keep our customers with us, we need to continue to add value. It’s a post for another day, but access to competitive alternatives has never been broader or easier.

B. Upsell Opportunities (Deeper Commitment)

We’ve had an initial exchange. But, there’s more there. We know it. They know it. There is more dialogue to be had. There are more problems to be solved. You’ll see that the retention circle extends back down into the engagement stage. Deeper dialogue covering Value Discovery, Co-Creation, Deepening of trust are now back in play, and layers of the onion are peeled back as new needs are discovered and new solutions are presented.

C. CrossSell Opportunities (Different Product and Service Offerings)

You’ll notice that this retention circle ventures all the way back down to the permission stage. Perhaps we’ve solved a set of problems for our customer. We’ve added value in a specific area. But perhaps, there are new opportunities for value exchange in areas we haven’t even touched on yet. Areas of our customer’s business that may have different rules, needs, players, politics, budgets, goals, etc. While we’ve exchanged value for one business purpose, we may need to display competency in another area in order to earn permission to engage in dialogue for that need as well.

And that, my friends, brings us to our close.

We’ve taken a look at how to get our prospect’s attention, and facilitate a journey towards a mutual value exchange. We’ve looked at how social technologies amplify everything good and bad, and we’ve taken a brief look at how our relationship with our customers (partners, influencers, etc.) can be retained and nurtured for continuous value exchange.

Now it’s your turn. I’m anxious to hear your feedback:

1. Am I on the mark? How can we adjust this image to more accurately represent how businesses today and in the future can leverage social technologies for exponential revenue growth?

2. What did I forget?

3. Where am I flat wrong?

4. How does this compare with your personal Customer Acquisition efforts today, and your plans for the future?

5. Does the image accurately reflect the concepts and ideas presented in the text?

6. And most of all, I am interested in hearing your unique, unfiltered personal insights, questions, and observations.

Thanks again for your feedback.

– Brian @CRMStrategies

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 2)

This is the second of a three part post.

In post 1, I introduced the AIPEE pyramid, talked briefly about what it was and what it wasn’t, and pointed our attention to R Value Exchange (the circled blue R under Interaction Medium) – which represents our target destination when participating socially for the purposes of Customer Acquisition. If you missed that post – you may want to briefly revisit it here

In this post, let’s take a closer look at each stage and the progressive journey up the pyramid, starting at the bottom, where most new individuals will start their journey with us. (Click on the image to look at a larger view)

ATTENTION

For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

INTERACTION
You’ve now garnered some attention, and have established a little bit of relational capital. Now is the time where some 1:1 interaction might take place. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, some “Unconnected” community participation, etc.

Dialogue at this stage will vary – but the offline equivalent might be saying “Hi – how are you doing?” to someone while waiting for a drink at the bar on in the line at the bathroom at a networking event. There is a shared common interest, and we’ve just been presented with an opportunity for some dialogue in passing. Unless there is something compelling or interesting during that exchange, the conversation will likely be forgotten within 15 minutes by both parties. If there is something of value during the exchange, the natural response is something like “Hey, let’s talk more about that next week”, and contact information is exchanged. We’ve just gained permission to continue the conversation.

PERMISSION
Simply put, the dialogue during our brief interaction was compelling enough. We have offered something of interest and value that the individual have implicitly or explicitly asked to know more about us. Instead of handing them a business card in the offline world, with a few mouse clicks and a URL, we can point them to exactly what they are looking for in the form of pre-existing content. In exchange, they’ve give you permission to follow up to talk more.

Some examples of ways that this can manifest itself are:

  • Subscribing to our blog
  • Inviting us to connect on a Social Network
  • Giving us their contact information in exchange for a white paper, webinar, newsletter, free product sample or trial

We’ve been able to offer something of value and they’ve given us permission to engage with them in more conversation.

*** VALUE ***
This isn’t a stage by itself, but it is the most critical factor to all of them, respectively. If there is something that isn’t graphically represented enough in the diagram, it is the Value that is provided on behalf of our company. You will notice that as the prospect moves up the pyramid, the company must be providing more value in order to enable them to do so. If there is a strong undercurrent that is unseen by the casual observer… the invisible hand of the AIPEE Pyramid, it is the absolute necessity to PROVIDE VALUE at each and every stage of the process. Without it, the climb up the pyramid is simply too hard. It is the value provided by the company that compels the prospect to continue their journey.

ENGAGEMENT
This is where we get the chance to really “talk turkey”, and is likely representative of the transition from what is traditionally known as marketing into the realm of sales. At this same point, interaction that has previously been facilitated by social technologies and platforms now probably transitions to a more “traditional” or “more deeply engaging” channel. There might be a natural escalation in communication channels from social –> email –> phone –> web conference –> face to face. Typically, as we get closer to the most natural form of human communication (face to face), we are likely moving closer to a mutually beneficial value exchange with our prospect. (Conjecture on my part – anyone have any research to back this up?)

This stage could be (and likely will be), another post or two unto itself. But that is for another day. We all have work to get back to.

For the sake of brevity, here is the summary:

The two parties are fully engaged, figuratively “sitting on the same side of the table” and seriously exploring how they can help each other out. Trust has never been deeper up until this point in the relationship. The company’s main goal is to understand in detail what their prospect is trying to accomplish, and either offer an existing solution from their offerings portfolio, or co-create with them a product or solution that helps them accomplish their goals.

EXCHANGE
We’ve made it. It’s nice to be at the top.

We’ve consistently added value over a series of interactions. We’ve established trust. We’ve worked hard on behalf of our prospect to help them achieve their goals. We’ve now earned the right to ask for something. It might be a sale (Revenue). It might be a Referral. It might be a Recommendation. In some cases, it might be all three. We’ve successfully executed an R Value Exchange. But it doesn’t stop there… (It never does).

In the final post, we’ll dig a little more into the Value Exchange Retention Cycles, the potential response(s) of the customer at all stages in their journey up the pyramid, provide some examples of how and when the customer might “skip” stages and get to the top more quickly, and how and when you might consider automating some of your efforts.