Blog World LA: The State of the Blogosphere & the New Media Wisdom Void (#BWELA)

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I will be phasing this blog out soon. Please visit my new blog at
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Blog World Los Angeles 2011

Last week, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Blog World Expo appeared in its fifth incarnation.  I spent a couple of days watching, listening, and engaging with a dense concentration of experienced and enthusiastic new media evangelists.

The keynotes were well done. Peter Shankman is hilarious and gifted. Amber Naslund shared passionately and enthusiastically her observation and exaltations to the digerati to change the future of business.

However, the keynote address that arguably provided the most valuable insights and takeawys was provided by Shani Higgins, CEO of Technorati as she shared findings from Technorati’s “State of the Blogosphere” report.

Keynotes: Shani Higgings – State of the Blogosphere

I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting slides:

Technorati 2011 State of the Blogosphere - Why Blog?

 

Passion, networking, and sharing are primary drivers behind what bloggers are doing, as evidenced in the slide above. One of the most interesting findings is that consumers prefer blogs for nearly every reason over news websites and mainstream media (see below). Overall, the passion and genuine pursuit of the interests of bloggers creates more trust and is the first place consumers go to learn about what interests them.

 

Technorati 2011 State of the Blogosphere - Why Visit?

 

However, instead of becoming more genuine and passionate themselves, brands seem to still be operating in a 1.0 world seeing bloggers as individuals to be leveraged for the distribution of the brand message (see below). It will be very interesting to see if the social web genuinely evolves as the platform of the empowered customer, or if the major brands once again seek to control the channel for branded information distribution – an interesting mega theme for the next decade.

 

Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2011 - Brands View For an answer to the megatheme question asked above, you might find a clue by finding what some brands recognize “that there really is no such thing as message control”. One respondent envisions a world where “social media will act as a campaign leader, rather than a supporter”, and greater fragmentation will continue to emerge as a challenge for brands and advertisers.

 

Technorati 2011 State of the Blogosphere Blogger Revenue

The fact that only 4% of bloggers use blogging as their primary income and the average salary amongst full time bloggers is $24,000 may give pause to anyone looking to make the full time jump. However, for those who are interested in improving their blogging efforts and results, Darren Rowse offered some sage advice from one of the leaders in the blogging business.

If you’re interested in the full deck, you can find it here

Blogging from the Heart and Blogging Smart

Darren Rowse is known to many as ProBlogger. During his session, he shared a great blend of stories from personal experience, coupled with sage advice and best practices as how success in a blogger’s world comes from a perfect blend of blogging from the heart (fuel and find your passion), while also being smart enough to generate revenue and make it worth the time and effort involved.

The core theme of his presentation was that if you want to blog, or improve your blog, be passionate. He underscored his point by sharing a short anecdote from Robert Frost:

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No Tears in the Writer
No Tears in the Reader

No Surprise in the Writer
No Surprise in the Reader

- Robert Frost

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The more passionate you are, the more passionate your audience will be. However, a focus on engagement, monetization, and revenue will help sustain you over the long run, as countless hours of pouring your heart, soul, and mind into anything without any tangible return inevitably leads to burnout and disillusionment.

If you treat it like a business; set goals, know your readers, build your brand, create hooks, create great products, market effectively, and continually experiment, test and tweak your approach, then there is a place for you on the widening road filled with the next generation of citizen journalists, and the barriers to entry are virtually non-existant.

“Google+ is to Facebook what Macintosh is to Windows.” – Guy Kawasaki

Bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki riffed for a bit on Google+ and whether businesses and brands should spend any time there. Ironically, today (November 7) Google+ made pages available to brands for the first time. Quickly after their announcement, pages from Burberry, Dell, and The New York Times hit the network, and thousands more are springing up as you read this.

Guy Kawasaki highlighted several reasons why he believes in the future of the newest social network, and he’s placing a big bet with his time.

He highlighted one striking difference between Google+ and Facebook: While Facebook is about connecting and sharing with those you know, Google+ is for discovering those you don’t quite know yet around topics of interest and passion. When Kawasaki got 50 intelligent comments on his first post, he nearly abandoned Twitter and has been putting in several hours each day manually reading, commenting, and sharing new stuff on Google+. His overarching view on the network currently is that it is a landgrab. He’s paying the price now to build his tribe. In return, to date, he has nearly 300,000 followers, partially do to the fact that he is a recommended user for those just signing up for the first time on Google+.

Chris Brogan largely agreed, and has actually already written a book on the subject.

He likened Google+ today to Twitter in 2006, and Chris likes leveraging Circles functionality for segmenting those he is following. Circles gives the ability for users to narrow the stream based on topics and segmentation of users, whether you’re mutually connected with them or not. He also likes to push messages to certain circles. From my perspective, it’s a mechanism of targeted messaging, instead of blasting everything to everyone.

Another major consideration that both Brogan and Kawasaki mentioned is that Google search indexes Google+ content right away, while it does not index Twitter or Facebook posts. Brogan shared that his biggest piece of advice was to go back to your Google+ About page and work on your profile, as it will help you connect with others that are looking for what you can offer.

From my perspective, Google+ is early in its adoption. Today, it IS mostly filled with tech pundits, authors, speakers, and personalities. The masses aren’t on it yet, and don’t see a reason to be.

For those who understand the power of networks – connectors, marketers, and those that have or are trying to build strong personal brands, spending time on Google+ is a calculated bet that the company that intends to organize the world’s information will be able to layer Google+ on top and within a growing suite of ubiquitous tools and capabilities that reach deep into our lives (Google Apps, GMail, Android, etc.) The bet holds significant promise (as well as some risk) as the potential payoff will largely come down the road, if at all.

Giving Substance to Online Influence

One of my favorite sessions of the conference was led by Matt Ridings and Chuck Hemann and focused on the subject of influence. It’s a topic I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to, over the past couple of years, and even more so recently, as shared in my recent post: “In search of: A meaningful measure of Influence” .

Online influence and reputation are two concepts that will become central to the way the world works over the next decade. Their session triggered some additional thoughts, which I’ll publish in a follow up to this post.

In summary

My observations and research indicate that there is plenty of confusion in the marketplace about what these new mediums mean for business. Most execs are interested in learning more about how trends in human communication are shifting, what it means at the macro scale, and ultimately what it means for their companies, and respective customer and prospect communities.

Today, most executives are swimming in a sea of noise and data, trying to grasp what these new realities really mean, how much weight and attention to give them, and how it should impact how they communicate within their organization and to their customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

The tectonic shifts under way not only require organizations to shift to listen to what their customers are saying, but also will allow those who truly understand how to leverage new media to gain market share by leveraging network effects that social channels provide.

Sadly, however, there appears to still be a significant gap between the evangelism taking place amongst the digerati and the understanding and support of executives. The conference had its share of valuable insights to be learned, but was also rich with hyperbole and ephemeral euphemisms that have no tangible connection to the core practicalities of business leaders today.

We are largely in an experimental phase, with some success stories emerging, but most case studies highlighting some very successful individual outliers, or celebrated measurements sitting on the fringe of significant tangible impact to the enterprise. We will begin to see this shift dramatically over the next 2-5 years.

While many business leaders seek to understand the new media and communication frontiers, many of the digerati who understand the channel and tools well, still struggle with connecting the dots to meaningful business value. Those that understand both and can bridge the gap between the two will be in high demand now and into the foreseeable future.

In search of: A meaningful measure of Influence

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I will be phasing this blog out soon. Please visit my new blog at
http://www.brianvellmure.com and subscribe to the new feed there. Thanks!
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Influence. It’s a captivating word. It’s an alluring word.

We all want it, and we want to know others who have it.

In high school, if you could get the “cool kids” to the party, the rest would follow.

If the most famous and glamorous people in the world use it, like it, and talk about it, it must be great.

INFLUENCE: THE DEFINITION

But is that influence? From our good friend, Webster, Influence is:

1. A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort:
2. Power to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position

WHO, THEN, ARE THE INFLUENCERS?

As part of a thought exercise, I asked myself two questions:

(1) Who are the most influential folks in history?

Names like Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler, FDR, Mohandas Ghandi, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Steve Jobs come to mind.

Nelson MandelaMartin Luther King, Jr. Steve Jobs

(2) Who have been the most influential people in my life?

My wife, my parents, a former NBC Universal Executive, a business man turned global missionary, the most successful enterprise sales executive I know, a Navy Seal turned pastor and non-profit Executive Director, and select football and basketball coaches throughout my athletic career.

The irony is that many or most of the most influential people in my life literally have no or limited presence on Social Networks (yet). There are dozens of others who influence my thinking as circles cascade outwards, and as contexts become more detailed and narrowly defined, but these are the ones who have spoken into my life, and who have the most influence on my decisions. Their actions and influence on my behavior is for all intents and purposes, not measurable.

THE “INFLUENCE” OF NETWORKS ON THE SOCIAL CUSTOMER

But I am also a social customer. I read reviews. I ask, comment, and interact in public social networks and forums, and these interactions and the things I learn and observe do influence my buying decisions.

WOMMA put together the following infographic about what fuels our collective purchasing decisions. These are the things that have marketers so excited and quite frankly, confused.

Word of Mouth Marketing

LEVERAGE AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF INFLUENCE

As the restricted and proprietary ivory towers of media, global communication, and information flow have given way to citizen journalists, we have witnessed the great democratization of media, celebrity status, and, in turn, the democratization of influence itself. Or have we? Has anything really changed?

In the end, business is all about leverage. It’s about maximizing the return on available time, talents, and resources. The social web, ubiquitous connectedness, and the ongoing digitization of everything finds marketers both forced and opportunistically looking to leverage the new influencers (their reach, their networks, and the trust that they’ve established in their tribe) for their respective interests.

Watch this short clip from a fascinating talk by Deb Roy and you’ll see a fantastic example of how an action by one can truly effect the actions of tens, or hundreds, or potentially thousands of others.

So, then, as marketers, the next obvious questions are:

How do we find the influencers?

How do we engage with them?

How do we entice them?

And, ultimately, how do we provide these influencers with a message that they can carry to their audience(s) that benefit our brand, our company, our products, and ultimately our interests?

FINDING THE INFLUENCERS

Who do we reach out to?
This first question is where most people start. Who are the influencers in our marketplace? The answer to that question, in and of itself, may be tougher than it initially seems. The unaware may start with their offline network, and extend their research by finding those with the highest number of Twitter followers. But studies have shown that there is little correlation to numbers of Twitter followers, facebook fans, or similar social network as measures of real influence.

For more reading on this, check out On Twitter, Followers Don’t Equal Influence and Celebrities’ Twitter Followers Have Zero Influence

Some online services have begun to tackle this problem by attempting to measure influence in a more scientific way. By now, you may have undoubtedly heard of Klout, or PeerIndex, or Traackr, or several other upstart influence measurement tools.

  • Are these valid?
  • Should they be used? And if so, how?
  • Does it help me identify the influencers who can allow me the greatest amount of leverage for distributing my message, and more importantly, help make a measurable impact for my organization?

THE EMERGENCE OF INFLUENCE MEASUREMENT SCORES



Klout, the most widely recognized service, recently stirred a sea of controversy when they changed their algorithm score. Perusing through the comments, it was apparent that some had so deeply embraced these influence scores, that they were literally upset that they might lose their jobs, their clients, and for a moment, I was concerned that many of them might even lose their lives.

While Klout’s messaging spun this as a “More Accurate, Transparent Klout Score”, I have to wonder. They’ve never been very transparent about the mechanics of what makes up the Klout score. While Klout started with Twitter, it has since expanded to Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and a host of other social sharing sites. At first glance, it appears that facebook, in particular, has taken on a far more significant weighting in their recent shift.

When trying to understand the motivations behind actions, I often start with the looking at the money trail. It’s important to know that Klout is a for-profit corporation with venture capital funding. It’s also important to know that they are monetizing their service by providing social data to large consumer brands. Alignment with the world’s most popular and mainstream social network probably makes sense and may contain the most valuable unstructured data for what has emerged as Klout’s primary paying customers, the world’s largest consumer brands. To their credit. it seems that Klout has perhaps taken a big step towards alignment with their customers in providing relevance. Perhaps I’ll no longer be the ideal candidate for pre-screening and behind the scenes previews for new release movies and TV shows, which I’ve received numerous Klout Perk offers for, ignoring all of them.

Watch this editorial video from the Wall St. Journal as it gives deeper insight into Klout and its effect on many participating in digital media today.

THE STATE OF INFLUENCE MEASUREMENT

Is this really a measure of influence, and if so, in what context, for whom? Or is this simply a service that major brands can leverage to gain access to more targeted recipients of their ads?

How does this concept of influence measurement apply to the billions who choose to make significant changes in their communities, in their businesses, with their customers, and behind the walls of their organizations without doing so on public social networks? How will Klout or something like it really measure actions and communications that truly inspire change and affect thoughts, behaviors, and actions of others?

There is a long way to go. These fledgling measurement scores are valid experiments and I firmly believe the precursors to something more meaningful, more relevant, and more useful, but there is only so much they can measure today. Couple that with the extreme potential and propensity for inaccuracy and fraud, and the system’s reliability breaks down.

Ironically, Klout specifically has suffered quite the backlash on social channels. Recent alarms have sounded over privacy concerns and the inability to remove one’s self from Klout. (Though you can do that now.)

In closing, there are several challenges that the world of influence measurement must overcome before being truly valuable for organizations and brands. I’ll start with a few and let others weigh in.

(1) Klout (and other measurement tools) will act in their best interest. As long as their interests are aligned with profit, their is opportunity for corruption. Witness recent allegations against the major ratings agencies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis for an example. (To be clear, I have no problem with Klout specifically, nor is this in any way any allegation against them)

(2) As evidenced by the video above, online personalities will act to game their score, something that has been proven to be easy to do. High “Influence” scores then have the potential to be allocated to those who have the most time on their hands to play an online game, then actually make any meaningful change or impact on the world.

(3) True influence is about changing behavior. It’s hard to measure anything truly meaningful today and correlate to something measurable (ie. a purchase, a referral or mention that led to multiple purchases)

(4) Measurement scores must be relevant to the motivations and priorities of the ones utilizing the scores.

(5) *** Perhaps the biggest one that will only be resolved with time and the eventual “digitization of everything”:

Only a small percentage of most of our actions happen in the digital world today. Though, this is changing rapidly , digital influence measurement systems can only evaluate a very small percentage of what’s happening in the real world.

THE REST IS UP TO YOU

I’m sure I’ve missed a ton so I’ll leave the rest to you.

What are some other challenges / gaps you see in today’s “influence measurement” scores? How would you improve them?

Or, maybe you can surprise me, what are some ways that you have used one of the emerging influence measurement systems to measurably impact the bottom line of your organization?

And if you still want more on the topic of influence, my friend Dr. Michael Wu has written quite a bit on the subject, especially as it pertains to social networks.

In an era of crisis & revolution, is your company the next target?

We are living in interesting times indeed. Geo-political revolutions, financial crises, economic uncertainty. Try as we might to ignore them, the fact is that the very fabric of capitalism is being re-evaluated, and perhaps even rewoven.

What we have assumed and known for at least 150 years is at the very least being questioned. Institutions that have spanned generations are now vulnerable.

Banks are still closing down weekly. The situation in Europe is increasingly fragile as previous whispers of dramatic austerity and potential collapse of the Euro become potentially viable outcomes.

In the United States, President Obama’s approval rating is at an all time low. Congress approval rating is at 14% – FOURTEEN PERCENT! – also an all time low.

Civil unrest has spread from oppressive dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and Africa to the developed world (see London riots).

Corporate America is obviously feeling the effects of many of these issues as they affect all of us, directly or indirectly.

You are likely familiar with the recent collapse of these famed organizations:

  • Lehman Brothers
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Blockbuster Video
  • Borders Bookstores

Power to the People

Friends, we are living in a unique era. While world leaders collectively wrestle with the greatest economic challenges in the last 70 years, many corporations find themselves doing the same. Customers are voicing their opinions about companies they do business with, as constituents voice their displeasure about the poor job their leaders are doing on their behalf.

The following incidents caught executives by surprise as specific cries against corporate actions rallied the hearts, minds, and activity of thousands in revolt against insensitive corporate interests.

  • Dell Hell
  • United Breaks Guitars
  • Kevin Smith’s Southwest Airlines Incident
  • Greenpeace and Nestle

Jeremiah Owyang chronicles a more complete list of corporate social media crisis here

What’s perhaps most interesting is that these recent revolutions and crises, whether political or corporate, are being fueled and enabled by the reach and connectedness of internet based social networks.

While Jeremiah and the team at The Altimeter Group once again published a quality open research report titled “Social Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare” , it is possible to miss some of the larger, more important underlying issues.

The Seeds of Revolution

Surely, rapid uprisings and revolutions don’t just happen because someone tweets about it, or posts a YouTube video. It’s not the medium that really matters. It’s the ability for the message to spread, and for people to self-organize quickly – to out-think, out-flank, and out-number their oppressors or aggressors.

Revolution happens because a latent frustration finds an outlet. It happens because enough people unite and take action around an idea of change. Connected by a common interest or frustration, the network effect takes place as people unite in a flash mob around a common goal. It happens because the thought of things staying the same becomes more fearful and oppressive than the uncertainty and risk associated with standing up and going a different direction.

According to BJ Fogg’s behavioral model (Hat tip to Dr. Graham Hill and Dr. Michael Wu for pointing me his way), there are three primary factors that lead to behaviors:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

You see, I believe that there are tons of latent motivations out there that never turn into anything because the other two factors don’t exist. Social Networks and ubiquitous connectivity are providing the ability to actually do something once a trigger occurs. With latent motivations and now the ability to do something now in place, a trigger event becomes a spark that can quickly flame into a roaring fire.

In a world that is increasingly connected, increasingly digital, and access to anything and anyone is available in real time, corporate leaders should be considering the following questions.

The fabric of global society is transforming from a collection of lots of small, geographically connected groups to groups that are connected in a new geography that transcends previous space and time limitations.

Much of the new global infrastructure has been laid and it will continue to become more pervasive and more powerful.

People can now aggregate across boundaries, and organize beyond the constraints and management comforting silos. Al Quaeda and WikiLeaks quickly come to mind. In the same way, business units are self-organizing around the constraints of their IT departments.

Guess what? Our prospects and customers now have the ability to do the same.

The question every executive should be asking right now

So then the next question is, will your organization lead the next revolution in your marketplace, empowering and giving voice to the latent motivations of your customers, or will it become a victim of a more agile, more united group of customers who will self organize around their collective needs and jobs, leaving your outdated organization in their wake?

Let’s continue the discussion

If you are in Southern California or Arizona, please join me on September 21 and 22 as I lead discussions centered around this topic in a series of Executive Breakfasts sponsored by NICE.

Networks, Signals, Reputation and Delight

The era of mass marketing, sales driven information gathering and sharing, and being “just good enough to win” is being shattered by the rapid emergence of a smart, networked, and increasingly demanding generation of empowered customers. In the fragmented and fast moving world of concepts, buzzwords, technologies, and applications, most executives are looking for looking for answers to a few basic questions:

- What matters?
- What’s different?
- How can I and or my organization benefit?
- Where is the opportunity?
- What should I do now?

As I survey the evolving landscape, there are four primary things that stand out as emerging keys to sales and marketing success in an always on, attention scarce, information rich world.

  • Growing your network
  • Sending signals that are valuable
  • Building a glowing reputation
  • Focusing on delighting your customers

None of these are new tactics. They’ve all stood the test of time and have been employed by folks over the last several hundred years. However, the speed and access to people and information has made each of them exponentially more important. Take a look at the stats in the image below.

*** TAKEAWAY ***: When buyers want something, they’ll turn to search and their network to look for answers. Make sure you are there.

Why reputation and ranking is important

A great “human digitization” is taking place. Hordes of people and content are flooding into the web. Search engines and other content and people filters have to come up with a scoring mechanism to make results meaningful. Google, Bing, Facebook, and others are merging “people rank” with “page rank”. Search results are now being presented taking into account the “influence” and “reputation” of the messengers who are sharing it.

*** TAKEAWAY ***: Position yourself and your organization as a voice that matters (among those who know you, AND those who have yet to discover you)

Messenger as Important as the Message

*** How do you do this? ***

  • Build your network(s).
  • Send valuable signals – these could be blog posts, tweets, white papers, videos, comments, etc.
  • Focus on delighting your customers, prospects, partners, employees, suppliers, etc. It matters. It stands out. It breeds enthusiasm, loyalty, and word of mouth.
  • As your networks and signals expand their reach with positive sentiment, your reputation will increase.
  • As your reach and reputation grows, it provides an even greater platform to create moments of “delight”
  • Congratulations! An exponential and continuous feedback loop has been created.

Networks, Signals, Reputation, and Delight

For more on the concept(s), feel free to download/view the entire presentation below, or simply contact me directly.

The Future of Customer Relationships: Where is all this heading?

Shifts in technology and human behavior are rapidly changing customer’s expectations of companies. Things are moving so fast, that most executives are not only trying to catch up with the changes, but identify what some of the changes are. Understanding what those changes mean to each business is a more complicated matter altogether.

Ross Dawson brilliantly lays out his observations of the mega trends happening around us in the charts below.

Ross Dawson Map of the Decade

Ross Dawson Zeitgeist 2011

Two growing and intertwining concepts (influence and reputation) are rapidly gaining ground and creating controversy as to their accuracy, adaptability, and use. There is a growing gap between those who believe that these scores and algorithms are the key to priority and leverage, opening up the door for profitable arbitrage, and others that believe that this is the emergence of a new caste system based on false measurements.

Just today, Klout just released a plugin for Twitter that displays an “influence” score (see the screenshot below), but this type of technology and scoring is currently in its infancy, and still marginally beneficial in the context of real life. However, some large and well known organizations are already giving perks and preference to customers with a high klout score.

Twitter Klout Plugin

Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist, of Lithium Technologies, has been doggedly trying to uncover the meaning of influence, its impact on relationships, and ultimately corporate profit structures. Target the influencers, and you can move the crowd. There are seemingly vast opportunities in understanding and leveraging influencers within networked communities.

Influencer Network Graph

But, in reality, the influence/reputation conundrum is just one small movement in a massive tectonic shift happening that is disrupting geopolitical structures (Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), macro-economic theories and assumptions (the financial meltdown and the current response(s), human behavior, and corporate sustainability.

In late 2009, in one the most popular posts ever on customer focused portal, CustomerThink, Graham Hill outlined 15 tenets in his “Manifesto for Social Business


No1. From Individual Customers… to Networks of Customers

No2. From Customer Needs, Wants & Expectations… to Customer Jobs-to-be-Done

No3. From Company Value-in-Exchange… to Customer Value-in-Use

No4. From Delivering Value to Customers… to Co-Creating Value with Customers

No5. From Marketing, Sales & Service Touchpoints… to the End-to-End Customer Experience

No6. From One-Size-Fits-All Products… to a Long-Tail of Mass-Customised Solutions

No7. From Competing on Products, Price or Service… to Competing over Multi-sided Platforms

No8. From Company Push… to Sensing and Responding in Real-Time to Customers

No9. From Technology, Processes & Culture… to Complementary Capabilities and Micro-Foundations

No10. From Made by Companies for Customers… to Made By Customers for Each Other

No11. From On-premise Applications… to On-demand Solutions from the Cloud

No12. From Stand-alone Companies… to an Ecosystem of Networked Partners

No13. From Hierarchical Command & Control… to Collaborative Hybrid Organisations

No14. From Customer Strategy… to a Portfolio of Emergent Customer Options

No15. From Customer Lifetime Value… to Customer Network Value

Add to these, the fast growing mobile, always connected individuals, and you have the making of a perfect storm, for those who understand where things are headed.

Join the Conversation

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST, please listen in to a conversation as some of the world’s brightest minds will evaluate and debate where we’re heading, project how multiple trajectories might collide, and what your organization should be preparing for now.

I’ll be participating in a roundtable, hosted by Focus.com featuring experts Ross Dawson, Dr. Graham Hill, Dr. Michael Wu, and analyst and futurist Denis Pombriant as we explore topics such as:

1) Influence and Reputation: How forward thinking companies will leverage these new measurements to attract and keep customers
2) Co-Creation: What it is and why it’s next in the evolution of customer centricity
3) The Impact of rapidly maturing mobile and collaborative technologies on organizations, their customers, and society as a whole

Here’s the call-in information – I hope you have the chance to join us:

Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006

International Toll Free Numbers
United States +1 (866) 951-1151
Canada +1 (866) 951-1151
Australia +61 1800886154
Austria +43 080010251987
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Social Media, Collaboration, and Customer Insights with an elite group of experts: April 4-6, 2011

When SugarCRM asked me to assemble the social track for SugarCon, the first thing that impressed me was the “spirit” of the track, and conference for that matter. It had little to do with touting Sugar; the company, or the products they make. Rather, it was all about creating a gathering of thought leaders, practitioners, and vendors to mutually work together in the effort of taking the next leap in improving customer relationships.

The great thing about working in collaboration with an open source company is that they “get” stuff like “open”, “collaboration” and “community”. It seems to be just naturally in their DNA and has been since their inception.

SugarCon 2011

I am excited about the lineup. The quality of speakers is amazing, and contains a diversity of perspectives that is hard to emulate, especially at a vendor conference. If you are free April 4-6, 2011, please mark your calendars and plan to attend SugarCon.

Considering that the price for the entire event is far less than what these folks normally charge for an hour of their time, plus the invaluable benefit of networking with other executives, marketers, sales folks, and technologists, it makes it a no-brainer if you can attend. Add to that the additional keynotes, 5 additional tracks, and it’s truly an event you won’t want to miss.

***** To make it even sweeter, mention the special discount code #SCON040511 and get $150 off. *****

Here’s a quick breakdown of the presenter’s lineup, chalk full of folks who have a reputation of keynoting on their own.

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg


Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe)

Paul will be keynoting the event. If you don’t know who Paul Greenberg is, you probably “have been very busy”. He’s written four versions of the best selling book, “CRM at the Speed of Light”, is an independent analyst, and a well respected consultant to some of the largest and well known CRM vendors in the world. He coined the most used definition of Social CRM, and has energized an industry with his research, intelligence, signature writing style, inquisitive mind, and kind and generous nature. Paul was the mastermind and primary catalyst behind one of the most unique and powerful events I have been to almost exactly a year ago, which has since quite literally propelled an industry (Social CRM) that Gartner is now saying is greater than a $1 Billion marketplace. Paul is well worth the price of admission alone.

By the way, there’s another one of these now famous #scrmsummit events coming up next month (March) in Madrid, Spain if you can make it.

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky


Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky)

If you clicked on the Madrid, Spain “Social CRM Strategies for Business” link, you probably saw a picture of Esteban dropping knowledge in a purple shirt and a shiny blue tie. While he likely won’t be wearing a suit, he most definitely will be dropping knowledge about the evolution of social and CRM to this point in time, and will be leveraging his extensive research experience (former Gartner analyst) to paint his view of the coming “collaborative enterprise”. Esteban is one of the sharpest minds in the space, and possesses a great blend of experience (analyst, consultant, practitioner), and background (an Argentinian of Eastern European descent that floats around Silicon Valley). He’s also got a great sense of humor. You won’t want to miss his session.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff


Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (@drnatalie)

One of two PhDs. in the lineup, “Dr. Natalie” made quite a splash last year when she jumped from Forrester Research as a Customer Service analyst to take a role as “Chief Strategist” for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms. In fact, Weber Shandwick was just named global agency of the year, for the second year in a row. In addition to being an actual rocket scientist, Dr. Natalie has written multiple books, is a university professor, and has led organizations in a wide variety of capacities as an analyst, consultant, and senior executive. Bringing together a depth of varied experience and a warm and entertaining style, Dr. Natalie will inspire new thoughts and ideas for you to take back to your organization.

Adrian Ott

Adrian Ott


Adrian Ott (@ExponentialEdge)

There’s not many people who have been called “Silicon Valley’s Most Respected Strategist”. Her consulting work is rooted in 18 years of corporate experience, and Adrian recently wrote and published her award winning book “The 24 hour Customer” which takes an intriguing look at why time is more valuable than money, and why and how to work with attention deprived customers. She’s appeared on Bloomberg TV, BusinessWeek, The Washington Post, and other major media for her research and insights about growing businesses in today’s exponential economy. Seriously good stuff. That’s all there is to it.

Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella


Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella)

Dan is the original Social Media Scientist. Beneath the hype and hyperbole of the social media evolution, one guy has a reputation of looking deeply into the numbers and producing insights and takeaways that often fly in the face of the mainstream cheerleaders. He knows why certain tweets gets retweeted, and when and why to post certain messages on your facebook page. He is the author of The Facebook Marketing Book and the Social Media Marketing Book. Based on his research, he knows what day and what time you should blog, or tweet. Hubspot is leveraging guys like Dan to fuel exponential growth. Take copious notes when you’re listening to Dan because they’ll translate to success and dollars when you’re back in the office.

Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu


Dr. Michael Wu (@mich8elwu)

Speaking of scientists, Dr. Michael Wu is taking some of the most complicated subjects underpinning the social web, social business, and social networks, dissecting them and then educating the masses with detailed yet digestible explanations of how things really work and how successful organizations can leverage networks to thrive. As the principal scientist of Lithium Technologies, a leader in Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant, and the pioneer platform provider for customer communities, Dr. Wu has access to a boatload of data, and he slices and dices it with precision. The output is keen insights into why some communities, organizations, and individuals thrive on the social web, and others don’t. Dr. Wu will teach you how seemingly far reaching concepts such as influence, gaming dynamics, and other factors can be key differentiators between marketing and customer service success and failure.

Becky Carroll

Becky Carroll


Becky Carroll (@bcarroll7)

What Becky Carroll is working on now could be enough for most people to complete in a lifetime. She’s a professor at UC San Diego, an NBC news correspondent, book author, consultant, and manages the Verizon customer community. She’s long been an author of one of the most popular blogs in the world focused on customer service and customer experience. Entertaining, multi-talented, and engaging, she understands the social world well, and knows what works with customers. Soak up her wisdom and add to your bottom line.

Christopher Carfi

Christopher Carfi


Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi)

Christopher started his blog called “The Social Customer Manifesto” in 2004! He saw today’s reality nearly a decade ahead of it’s time, and is now looking ahead at the future and the impact of the perfect storm mashup of social, mobile, and cloud computing and what it means for consumers, and in turn, the organizations that seek to earn their business. After nearly a decade at Anderson consulting, he founded Cerado, Inc. to provide software and services that enable businesses, organizations and associations to better connect and understand their customer and member communities. He recently joined Edelman Digital, the digital arm of the largest, independently owned communications firm in the world, Edelman, the publishers of the Edelman Trust Barometer, the subject of my last blog post.

Brent Leary

Brent Leary


Brent Leary (@brentleary)

Another guy who was early to the game, Brent literally started the social crm conversation on Twitter back in 2008 by creating the #scrm hashtag and bringing together a community of thousands to discuss the topic. He co-authored Barack 2.0, chronicling how Barack Obama leveraged Social Media on the way to the presidential election. Brent is the principal and founder of CRM Essentials, and is a well respected analyst, consultant, and thought leader. His thoughts are regularly featured in Inc. magazine, OPEN by American Express, and he’s been quoted in several national business publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Entrepreneur magazine. Brent specializes in the SMB market and always has unique, relevant and actionable insights to share.

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan (@buchanla)

Laurence heads up CRM and Social CRM within the UK for Capgemini (Technology Services). In his current role Laurence is responsible for Capgemini’s CRM & Social CRM go-to-market strategy and business development across all packaged vendors and industries. He is passionate about helping clients articulate their customer-centric vision and strategy, and enabling that through the smart use of technology. Prior to Capgemini, Laurence spent a decade with SAP, where he was global vice president for SAP CRM. He is a recognised authority and evangelist on CRM, Social CRM and customer experience transformation. He writes regularly on Social CRM at The Customer Revolution and is a member of the CRM advisory board at the Rotman Centre for CRM excellence in Toronto.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew Rosenhaft


Matthew Rosenhaft (@mmrosenhaft)

Matthew Rosenhaft is the Principal of Social Gastronomy and Co-Founder of the Social Executive Council, an elite group of global CxOs, focused on leveraging social technologies in their organizations. He is a former marketing executive who specializes in Social Business, Marketing, and Architecture Strategy. He also has founded several early-stage venture-backed technology companies and holds a US patent for a mobile marketing technology. You won’t want to miss Matthew’s session as he unveils the research findings of his firm, and provides an ultra-tangible example of how companies can leverage social market research to provide insight into strategic customer focused initiatives. The subject of his research? SugarCRM. Come attend this no-holds barred session as Matthew unveils clues to Sugar about what the marketplace and prospective buyers think about them, and offers some suggestions about how they might respond.

That’s the lineup. What are you waiting for? Register here, save some cash with the #SCON040511 discount code, and let’s setup a time to connect while you’re there.

Social Business: May I try and simplify this?

Business is about creating value, and reaping a return from that creation.

People (and/or groups of people) are responsible for:

(1) Evaluating value offerings
(2) Making decisions to exchange value with other people (and/or groups of people) for equal or greater value

Social media is a digital representation of people; their thoughts, their likes, their opinions, their emotions, their friends, their location.

Social networks are where digital expressions of people interact.

The kaleidescope of digital human interaction (people) has simply become richer.

Applying business thought and practice fundamentals to the emerging landscape of interaction and data just makes sense.

Thanks. I just needed to get that off my chest. Now we can get back to sorting out all the details.

March Madness: Timeless Business Lessons from the Greatest Coach of All Time

The Final Four tips off tomorrow to determine who will play in the NCAA Men’s National Championship Game.

Every March, 65 basketball teams are given an admission ticket for a chance to play their way into a dream – competing for a National Championship. It’s my favorite time of year. It’s a time where most dreams are never realized, and some dreams are shattered when attainment is just inches from their grasp.

Not unlike the social landscape, the NCAA Tournament (aka March Madness) is a great equalizer. It’s a place where the small guys get to face the giants and see how good they really are. It’s a place where undiscovered stars emerge under a giant spotlight to take center stage and sometimes, just sometimes, this is where magic happens. Schools like Texas Western defeat legends like Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky. Little schools like Northern Iowa conquer untouchable top ranked giants like the University of Kansas.

Fans and observers across the USA simply love the excitement and adrenaline rush of buzzer beaters, agonizing near misses, and the thrill of the “win or go home” environment. Well, at least most fans do…

This March was a little different for me. Number one, I regrettably didn’t get to watch many games. (On a positive note though, as referenced above, I did fare better in my pool than Brent.) Secondly, I suddenly found myself witnessing a different kind of “March Madness” unfold. Use of the word “Social CRM” has absolutely exploded. A relatively small conversation between a few of us a year ago is currently experiencing “hockey stick” interest and discussion.

Social CRM Search Volume

Now this growth and interest is a good thing. I firmly believe that Social CRM has the potential to reshape modern day commerce. If you’re just getting up to speed, check out a great compilation of valuable discussions curated by Prem Kumar.

But, boy have I seen the term misused, misinterpreted, and all of a sudden there is a rush of new definitions, new models, and anything related to social media is now being called Social CRM. Some are arguing that the term shouldn’t even be used, and trying to rename it to align it with their own agenda. Many posts and discussions have become misleading, misguided, and in many cases, myopically focused on the latest social tools with absolutely no real context, strategy, purpose, or value behind them.

STOP THE MADNESS!

Over the course of NCAA basketball history, there is one coach who stands far above the rest.

His all time coaching record was 885-203.
In more than 40 years as a player and a coach, he NEVER WAS ON A LOSING TEAM.
He won 10 National Championships.
He won an unbelievable 38 STRAIGHT NCAA tournament games, leading to 7 STRAIGHT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.

His name is John Wooden.

While he applied his principles to coaching young men to play a game, he could have applied them anywhere and had a similar track record. He was (and still is) simply a remarkable leader.

For a stretch of 12 years in a row, Coach Wooden navigated the UCLA Bruins successfully through March Madness, defeating countless adversaries on their way to appearing in a championship game. During the course of his tenor, opposing coaches and players devised new schemes, new defenses, innovative offensive plays, fancy tricks, and spiced the game up with a little “razzle dazzle” for the entertainment the crowd. Wooden never lost his focus.

Ironically, he never focused on winning. He identified 12 key principles, and he pushed his players to give everything they had to try be the best they could be. He believed the results would take care of themselves.

To Wooden, winning was the result of focusing on just three things: Fundamentals, Conditioning, and Teamwork. He was and is, at the vivacious age of 99, a man of profound simplicity. To tie the 3 things to the business world, conditioning equates to simply striving to increase your competence everyday. An oft used term right now for Teamwork is “Collaboration”.

In this fast changing landscape of new toys, schemes, tools, and ideas, we can probably heed some things from Coach Wooden. I urge business leaders and those who are advising them to capitalize and leverage new opportunities brought about by emerging technologies and strategies to not lose sight of the core business fundamentals critical to their success.

For each organization, these core fundamentals will likely be slightly different. But there are many that can and should apply across the board.

What are the core business fundamentals YOU believe organizations should be focusing on today?

Please share them in the comments section. I’ve taken the initial stab with a short list below. I look forward to your additions.

  • Align your entire value delivery chain around customer needs
  • Constantly measure and improve your customer experience
  • Draw talent, customers, and partners to your organization by constantly doing something that others can’t, or won’t
  • Build loyalty (with customers, partners, suppliers, and employees) by exceeding expectations and offering an unbelievable value proposition
  • Execute: Do what you say you are going to do

And, before we go, in this rapidly emerging world where “reputation management” is becoming more and more relevant, here are some valuable parting words from Coach Wooden:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Thanks Coach for getting us back on track.

Three New Required Roles for your company: (#2) Social Anthropologist

In the first post of this series, we talked about listening for what people are saying about you, your brand, your market, your products and services, or market needs that your organization has an answer for. I intentionally didn’t dig into all the things you can do with that data – some are passive and some are active. The important part was listening. Turning that data into actionable insight is where the real magic can happen, but that’s a post for a different day. ;)

A couple of weeks ago, well known social superwoman blogger Amber Naslund sent this surprised tweet out:

Amber Naslund Tweet

It is very interesting indeed. But I think I have a good idea of where that hiring company is going.

Today, I’m going to turn our attention to the second required role for your company: The Social Anthropologist.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that phrase, it immediately brings to mind sleepy images of some British guy talking slowly and methodically on a Sunday afternoon about some displaced nomads in the bush of Botswana.

African Tribe

But that’s not what I am talking about here. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Know your customer.

Today, most companies are doing a good job of profiling their customers based on transactional data.

(1) Who spent the most money with us this year?
(2) Who is forecasted to spend more money with us next year?
(3) What net new opportunities do we have?

We may be breaking this data down by region, SIC Code, etc. We may have history of our marketing campaigns, response rates, phone calls, web form submissions, email interactions, sales person’s notes. We’ve got it all; Mounds and mounds of data about our customers.

With all this data, we may think we know our customers. But we don’t. In fact, we know very little about them.

A more complete customer profile

Harvey Mackay set out decades ago with his Mackay 66 to learn more about his customers. It was a differentiator. This was the next step towards actually knowing our customers. Do something like this, and you’ll be heads and shoulders above most of your competition.

But what if we were to take it even one step further?

What if we were to not just know about our customers, but also about the groups of people that they were part of, who they interact with, how they interact, and why?

Wikipedia defines Social Anthropology the following way:

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups.

Practitioners of social anthropology investigate… the social organization of a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on.

Most of our customers don’t live on an island (unless they live in Hawaii, or Australia, or… Suwarrow). No, I’m not talking about that kind of island anyway.

Strive to learn about your customers (and prospects) in the context of their lives.

They (We) all have circles of friendships, professional relationships, patterns, etc. that we live by. We have patterns of decision making, and we all make decisions based on influence of those we know and trust.

Below is an example of the #scrm Accidental Community on Twiangulate compliments of Josh Weinberger

By understanding more about those who influence our customer’s decisions; who they interact with, how they interact, and why they interact, we may discover valuable insights that may help us to meet our customer’s needs better, and if your organization is prepared enough, even co-create solutions with them.

Conversely, we may also begin to understand who our customers influence, and why a successful sale might not only allow us to recognize revenue from that single purchase, but also a chain of purchases based on the influence and recommendation of our customer’s purchase decision.

These insights are not only valuable for each individual prospect or customer, but also in aggregate. By profiling groups or segments of our customer base (or our target market in general), we can potentially gain key insights into who is likely deriving the most value from our products and service offerings.

The internet is compiling a huge amount of data

Feed.ly knows that 65% of my facebook friends are male, their most popular music group is U2, and their most popular movie is Gladiator.

While this may not present immediate opportunity in your mind, the point is illustrated. By knowing who I talk to, what their interests are, when and how we communicate, there are numerous opportunities to know more about me, what my preferences are, and what opportunities exist to help me in my daily life.

IBM recently did a social network analysis project called SNAzzy , to accurately chart and predict lifetime customer value and churn rates in the telecommunications industry.

James Koblieus points out on his blog the huge impact social network analysis will have on data warehouse growth and there are plenty of other challenges that await us as we begin to analyze and make sense of this data, and integrate with our existing systems and processes.

This is a new area for me and something I’ll definitely be spending more time on. If you know of any additional resources, please send them over.

Your customers and prospects are sharing, talking, conversing, and transacting. Get to know them. Partner with them, and find more people like them.

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

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