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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays! from the Chief Simplifier...

C.B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier Elf

Holiday Message from the Chief Simplifier & Elf!

Happy Holidays! The Chief Simplifier [a.k.a. C.B. Whittemore] has become the Chief Elf with intense yet simple words of wisdom that she intends to apply to herself this Holiday Season!

1. Simplify!

Focus on what's essential this Holiday Season.

2. Recharge!

Focus on the positive sources of energy around you. If you can't come up with constructive solutions to the negative, then take a break from it. Once recharged, I bet constructive solutions will appear immediately!

3. Refocus!

What's essential to your customers, your business, you? What are your positive sources of energy? When you look back over the year, what worked? What offered you valuable insights and generated those Aha! moments that led to successes? Can you recreate more of those moments?

That said, how do you plan on making the most of the Holidays so 2010 becomes not just filled with possibilities, but also marvelous realities?

How will you Simplify, Recharge and Refocus!

What would you add to the list?

Happy, happy Holidays and all the best for 2010!

Intensely Positive & Simple Regards,


aka Chief Simplifier
aka Chief Elf

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Visual Goodness To Maximize The User Experience

Fuel For Thought series

Visual Goodness Describes How Best To Maximize User Experience During Fuel For Thought Series

One last post to share with you from Sigma's Fuel For Thought, the Growth & Innovation Series. This one about Visual Goodness.

Visual Goodness is an 8 year old digital production shop in New York City with expertise in animation and development, 3D/motion, video production... They also struck me as creative to the hilt - in a practical way!

Chuck Acker, chief of new business at Visual Goodness, introduced Mark Rosal, creative manager.

Fuel For Thought described the session as follows:

"No matter what the product, service or industry, the most important goals in building your brand online are starting a relationship with your customers and maximizing user interaction time with your brand. In this workshop we’ll explore case studies where brands are going above and beyond to engage users right where they live by maintaining deep customer interaction while building mindshare and influence.

Mark started out the session with these observations:

+ As individuals, we are connected and overloaded with information.
+ But, as Clay Shirky has observed, the problem isn't information overload, but rather "filter failure."
+ The same is true for customers who are developing better filters.

In our current age of immediacy, people have multiple means to get to goals and they bypass the user experience we create to get to what they want faster. And, they want what's valuable to them [i.e., relevance].

The solution is to Maximize the User Experience and provide value within an experience in one of three ways:

+ Be a unique story teller.
As example, HBO, which redefines story telling. This post, HBO Imagine: Clues, Cubes and Mimes offers an overview. At all points, viewers [participants?] can share via Twitter and Facebook. Have you participated? What's your reaction?

+ React. Engage.
This example intrigued me. Visual Goodness created an experiment Mark referred to as "The Twitter of OZ." It answers the question "What if the main characters in the Wizard of Oz were on Twitter?" Here, Dorothy, Scarecrow (coming online soon), Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch, the Wizard and Glinda the Good Witch tweet their experiences in real time, 140 characters at a time?

Using Hootsuite to manage the multiple characters and story lines, Mark put together a script for the story with the goal of observing what would happen. He quickly got rid of the script when a new unexpected character showed up and he had to engage and react in real time.

This was a public experiment; for authenticity, he decided not to use a hashtag symbol [also left more space for content].

+ Be where the user is
This approach requires understanding where users are and engaging with them - talking to them - at the right moment. In this example, imagine having passersby text a message that is immediately projected onto a building in a busy urban environment. This was the "Who you for" text message campaign that spoke to people at the right moment and created word of mouth in a new medium.

Some other examples:
+ Flickr has active forums such as the Canon DSCR group. This is a self moderated group with distinct rules and guidelines on how to tag photos, etc. Note that it includes over 54k members!

+ From Visual Goodness, ESPN Monday Night Football Paper Football & Music Maestro.

As you think about maximizing the user experience for your customers, what do you find most effective?

How do you highlight value that is relevant to them?

How do you align what you offer with the filters customers have created?

Previous Posts About Fuel For Thought include:
Federated Media's Conversation Economy Examples
John Battelle & the Conversation Economy

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Simple Sells' Discover Marketers

Les choses les plus simples by Ferran Jordà

Marketers discover that simple sells.

A headline, quote or statement to this effect is guaranteed to catch my attention. Possibly because 'simple' features so prominently.

In this case, Marketers such as Starbucks discover that simple sells caught my eye.

The article quickly asserted that "simple is better" and in "2010 marketing will increasingly stress less as more."

What's your take on that prediction?

The article focuses specifically on food with examples of new, simplified food introductions. The fewer the elements, ingredients or additions, the greater the likelihood that something will sell.

Makes sense. I sure don't want all of the extra, non-value added, potentially dangerous, and mostly unnecessary stuff dumped into my food [and body]. Simple is better and healthier. Tastier, too.

It's also more transparent.

Simple applies not just to food, but to everything: the choices we make as consumers and the options we create as marketers. Simple even has us wanting to do more with Getting Ahead By Being Local.

It allows us to combat the Paradox of Choice and eliminate the complexity we've created for customers. In fact, we can become customer heroes via simple by proclaiming an end to deliberately confusing, exhausting and driving customers away with all our choices.

I see real opportunity in simplifying.

By simplifying, we help customers understand the value associated with their options - something I touch on in Brick-and-Mortar vs. Web: Which Retail Experience Wins Out? We help make sense of choices. We filter, curate and aggregate to create value and high quality marketing engagements as John Battelle described in John Battelle & The Conversation Economy.

Simple's time has come.

As you think about 2010, how will you go about applying the philosophy of 'simple' to your business and marketing?

Image credit: Les choses les plus simples originally uploaded by Ferran. A work by: Ferran Jordà /

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Social Networking Update - Whittemore onTalkFloor Radio

Whittemore Discusses Social Networking on TalkFloor Radio

Whittemore Discusses Social Networking on TalkFloor Radio

Many thanks to TalkFloor's Dave Foster who published a four part interview with me about Social Networking and the Social Flooring Index.

His description of the interview which aired in four parts in December 2009 reads:

Christine B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier, Simple Marketing Now offers an update on the latest developments in social networking in the business sector and in the floor covering industry as she discusses Simple Marketing Now’s recently launched Social Flooring Index.

As usual, a conversation with Dave is great fun and covers lots of territory!

Here follow links to the individual segments with highlights of what we covered.

What Is Social Networking?

Part 1 aired on December 6, 2009 - 11 minutes

I contrast social networking to mass communication tools; the tools are Internet based and easy to use. They are about sharing and engaging rather than forcing one-way push messages onto readers and visitors. Best practices call for integrating your social networking into your overall business strategy.

Dave asked about the relevance of social media for a category like flooring - a subject that I address in How Do I Make Social Media Relevant To Categories Like Flooring? I see so many opportunities in flooring for building relationships with customers, for guiding them on how best to take care of their flooring products, etc. These social media marketing tools take us back to how business used to be done before mass communications. They allow us to connect with potential clients and share relevant and valuable information with those active in social networks. They also allow us to be digitally visible to those who seek information from a search window.

Benefits of Social Networking and Social Media Marketing

Part 2, aired on December 7, 2009 - 11.34 minutes

The beauty of social media marketing platforms [e.g., like a blog] is that they allow you to publish your own content and address a variety of topics of interest to your audience - your history, who your people are, how you add value, your community activities, etc. A potential customer who gets to know you through your social networking activities comes into your business pre-qualified and more likely to buy than one who walks in off the street. Why? because you've had the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship and build trust, and you maintain that relationship beyond the initial transaction.

Taking part in social networking represents a long-term commitment to customers. It should be taken seriously and not delegated to interns or those without a full understanding of the business. Yes, it takes effort, but it enables you to interconnect all of your business activities, deliver on memorable customer service and make better use [i.e., repurpose] of what you create. Plan ahead and involve the rest of your organization.

Social Networking Success & The Social Flooring Index

Part 3, aired on December 8, 2009 - 11.40 minutes

To be successful with social networking, you should involve the rest of your organization [e.g., Zappos is very active on Twitter] and empower your employees to deliver on company objectives and delight customers.

Success requires a consistent effort, a willingness to communicate authentically in an approachable tone. You can certainly measure followers, fans, subscribers, but it's more than that. It's engaging in conversation with customers, responding to questions and referring to others. It's a way to demonstrate the value you offer and it's effective both with consumers as well as B2B customers.

The Social Flooring Index monitors the social state of the flooring industry. I describe how I got started. I've broken the index into three parts: Twitter, Facebook and blogs and it's a terrific starting point for learning more about social networking, noticing patterns, and observing best practices for those in flooring and outside the industry.

I explain that success with all of these social networking tools is based on sharing, providing value to your audience and engaging them in conversation.

The Social Flooring Index: A Resource for Social Networking Best Practices

Part 4, aired on December 9, 2009 - 11.06 minutes

The Social Flooring Index highlights a range of efforts in social networking. It also offers an overview on the industry and how participants are evolving their efforts over time. It takes several months to build momentum, find a rhythm that works and start to generate trust and credibility.

These are tools for building lifelong relationships with customers. Customers and consumers want more relevant and high-quality information, especially about flooring. Although your flooring customers aren't all actively engaged in social networks, more and more of them are - including our highly coveted woman consumer - and if they aren't, their friends and family members are ready to help them conduct digital searches.

The Index continues to evolve. I intend to further segment the blog segment to take into account the subjects addressed.

Finally, I touch on my two educational sessions at Surfaces 2010:

+ 3 hour workshop titled Marketing in a Recession 101 on Monday, February 1, 2010 from 9am to noon

+ 1 hour seminar titled Social Media 101 on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 from noon to 1pm.

Thanks again, Dave! I look forward to continuing the conversation about social networking and social media marketing.

I hope you get a chance to listen. I include examples and lots more detail and I'd love to hear your reactions.

Thank you!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Simple News & Insights - December 2009

Simple News & Insights

Simple News & Insights: Available Now!

Can you believe? I almost forgot to share the news... The latest issue of Simple News & Insights, the eNewsletter from Simple Marketing Now, is available as of 12/02/2009.

You can access the December 2009 issue by clicking on this link to the 12/02/2009 archived issue of Simple News & Insights.

I've tweaked the format a bit [and even remembered to include the 'forward to a friend' link!]. I welcome your feedback.

If you need a point of comparison, here are links to the previous issues:
+ 09/29/09 issue of Simple News - Fall 2009
+ 07/13/09 issue of Simple News - Inaugural Issue: July 2009

And, if you really like what you see, perhaps you will consider subscribing to Simple News & Insights...

In Other eNewsletter News

Yes, there's more!

This week I issued the first Simple Marketing Now Flooring eNewsletter. You can check it out on Flooring The Consumer. Here's the post to look for: Flooring eNewsletter #1 From Simple Marketing Now.

As the name suggests, it is flooring-focused.

What do you think? Do you like it?

Any suggestions on how to improve either eNewsletter?


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

How Do I Listen With Social Media?

How Do I?

How Do I Listen With Social Media?

Listening comes up repeatedly in social media marketing. You see, the tools of social media don't really work if you don't listen. Or, at least, they may work in a traditional and not very social way. In which case, social media marketing isn't really taking palce. So listening is critical.

Think about it.

Markets Are Conversations.

If markets are conversations - rather than one-way monologues - then you must consider what the other party has to say. You may put forth your perspective, but you must then listen to the response and be ready and willing to come up with a solution or improvement and definitely an acknowledgment. That give and take is what leads to engaging with readers, visitors and customers and eventually forming a community. It is what leads to developing trust and credibility.

I consider listening hugely under appreciated, particularly in traditional marketing. We might listen at arm's length via a focus group, but not up-close-and-socially.

Luckily, it isn't difficult to start to listen to the conversations. And, it isn't that scary either!

Social Media Listening Tools

Start with the most basic and flexible tool available: Google alerts - which, surprisingly, many traditional marketers don't know about. Set up alerts for your name, your company, your brand names, your competitor names, subjects and topics that interest you... It costs nothing.

Definitely explore terms and subjects of interest at a search window first so you can validate that you are getting the kinds of results that interest you. And, then, refine. I like to start with Google Search; then I create my alerts, monitor my results over a few days, and refine them.

Interestingly, Google has just added real-time search integrated into search results pages. It's particularly relevant [and noticeable] for very hot trending topics like Tiger Woods in December 2009... What that means is that you'll see relevant Twitter results appear in your search results. One-stop listening.

Where you aware that you can search in Facebook? Try it. You'll definitely find it interesting and you may be surprised by what you find.

Don't forget YouTube, the world's No. 2 search engine.

Finally, Twitter. You don't have to have a Twitter account to search Twitter. But, if you do have an account, you may find this post on Listening To Customers With Twitter helpful. In addition to always having a search window available, I keep a permanent browser tab open for Twitter Search.

Social Media Listening Guidelines

Simple Marketing Starts With Listening. It leads to insights. You want to tread carefully, though, as you enter into the world of those you want to listen to. Social media interaction is often described as the equivalent of entering into a living room or a kitchen where conversations are in progress. You can't just barge in and take over.

Definitely read through these 16 Social Media Tips Relating To Listening.

As Sharon Mostyn commented on How Do I Start With Social Media?:

"... Listen/read first. Don't try to join in on a social media conversation until you've spent some time learning how others are using that conversation (learn the "slang") otherwise you could jeopardize your future standing with the community that you are trying to reach."

That means that you should definitely listen with social media. But, do so respectfully, intensely, authentically, open-mindedly, creatively and simply. Beware of too much baggage [e.g., you might find this post about Listening To Women Customers helpful]; it might prevent you from hearing the obvious.

Other Social Media Listening Tools

Don't forget about using online survey tools, generating discussion on your blog, participating in forums, and simply asking questions and listening to the responses.

Are you ready to listen with social media? What do you find works best for you? And what insights have you uncovered?

Image credit: Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Federated Media's Conversation Economy Examples

Fuel For ThoughtIn my last post about Sigma's Fuel For Thought, the Growth & Innovation Series, John Battelle discussed the Conversation Economy and how marketing is everyone's job. In a breakout session, Pete Spande - also from Federated Media, continued the discussion and shared examples.

[Pete also writes Continuous Beta.]

The Evolving Conversation Economy

In his presentation, Pete Spande reminded us that we're in a period of evolution rather than revolution. Conversation has always driven consideration, but we've simply forgotten this for a while.

Furthermore, we don't have a neat funnel. Rather, we have complexity at the center of the funnel. No one size fits all; it varies per customer. However, social/conversation media combined with a vendor message influences buying decisions.

For an advertiser, though, the conversation needs to be at scale.

Conversation at scale means harnessing social media to create conversations with your customers - offering value that dovetails with the social media publisher you advertise with. As Federated Media describes it, it's built on Conversational Media: "we believe that the best conversations are those where all parties are engaged, informed, and valued. Working with our marketing and publishing partners, Federated Media is helping to define this innovative form of online marketing: a three-way dialog among creators, audiences, and marketers."

According to the Forrester who developed the Social Technographics Ladder, Social technology growth marches on in 2009, led by social network sites. More specifically "in 2009, more than four out of five online Americans are active in either creating, participating in, or reading some form of social content at least once a month." As the chart below illustrates, the level of conversation is increasing consistently.

The Conversation Economy marches on!

The question becomes, particularly for brands: how to be part of the conversation economy?

One answer lies with Federated Media which manages over 150 premium properties including:
- Heather Armstrong's
- Ree Drummond's Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
- Business Insider and Henry Blodget, Kevin Ryan, Julie Hansen, Dan Frommer
- Pete Cashmore/Mashable

These are all major media properties that built their audiences organically, have successfully engaged via the social web customers [e.g., via comments, time invested on site, voting, sharing, etc.], thereby amplifying messages through sharing and building significant equity.

From what Federated has observed, the common denominator is content:

- that resonates strongly with a specific audience
- that picks-up conversations already in progress; this is a direct offshoot of listening
- that amplifies shared values between the site and its visitors
- that invites a response/sharing

In short, it's content that creates conversation [remember, this is the conversation economy!].

For example, published a post about 4 Ways News Organizations Are Using Twitter Lists. 3 hours after it went live, it had generated 20 comments. As of 12/8/09, it has been ReTweeted 1268 times, and strong search equity for "news organization use Twitter" [i.e, page 1 on Google in position #1 or 2].

Take a search for chocolate milk recipe. Pioneer Woman's post about Decadent Chocolate Milk appears on page one. It has also generated as of 12/8/09, 1467 comments. Wow!

And, for a brand to successfully partner with these conversations, it must:
+ be promoted in a way that makes sense or meaning,
+ appeals to large, diverse groups in an extremely relevant way,
+ if relevant, calls for a small simple task [e.g., a RT - ReTweet]

5 case studies : How to use conversation as a marketer?

1. The Conversationalist Ad Unit

American Express Open Forum where content is used in an ad unit. Note the bottom of the page and the wealth of options relevant to small and medium businesses. The results: 5-15% interaction rate and a click through ~3x average ad unit performance.

FM details on Open Forum.

2. Samsung Netbooks: Netbook resource centers

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link to show this to you. However, FM created resource centers for Samsung with curated content combined with Conversationalist ad units that included CNET pricing information. To accommodate this unusual approach, the landing page was rethought to help with the purchase decision.

By the way, a benefit of the conversationalist ad unit is that content remains fresh.

3. Suave/Dooce Community Offers Shared Communal Affinity

The dooce community recently [i.e., early November 2009] launched with 5000 signing up on the first day. Not bad! Federated Media created the site with Suave as sponsor. You'll notice a range of interactive branding elements, from ad units that invite you to learn more, to statements about Suave that are ready for ReTweeting.

4. WePC [Asus] --> entered US 2 years ago therefore had no baggage

Asus entered the US PC market 2 years ago. As a result, it had no baggage yet ample opportunity! The WePC site allows visitors to dream about their ideal PC and submit ideas. Asus took some of those ideas and integrated them into their next generation product. The company learned that it had to lean into other communities to get submissions. For example, it sponsored an art context with the Facebook Graffitti application to envision what future technology would look like; it received approx. 5000 submissions.

Explore the WePC site. You'll notice video clips and opportunities to vote or discuss ideas and concepts. What a way to engage PC users.

FM details on WePC.
[Other Facebook Graffitti contest: BMW 1 Series]

5. ExecTweets

ExecTweets captures the best executive Tweets. It's designed for selfishness, allowing followers to consume the information as preferred. With over 1 million followers, it captures relevance. The ExecTweets website page also includes sponsored sidebars. It also adds value to existing conversations, embraces what customers using, provided options to give customers control of the experience [note that you can select industries], and it builds and supports assets to build longterm value.

FM details on ExecTweets.

[Here is a link to the Federated Media Guide to Conversational Marketing.]

I found Pete Spande's presentation fascinating. For the most part, I find digital ads clunky and irrelevant. These examples made more sense to me given their relevance and level of engagement. I'm not surprised that they deliver results.

What are your reactions? What kind of digital ad units do you click on? What success have you seen with your digital ad efforts?

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

BRITE 09: Innovating During Downturns & Surviving the Worst


Learning How To Innovate - a BRITE '09 Working Session

I love attending the Columbia Business School BRITE events because - inevitably - they recharge, refocus and re-inspire me. BRITE '09 took place March 4-5, 2009 and it didn't disappoint! This event included an unusual breakout session titled "Innovating During the Downturn: How to Survive Our Own Worst Case Scenarios." Instead of a lecture, we were led through a creative breakthrough thinking session that made innovation palpable.

Carsten Wierwille, frog designCarsten Wierwille, General Manager, frog design, New York, and his associate, Luke Williams, led us through the exercise. frog design focuses on innovation.

As Carsten explained, innovation and creativity suffer significantly during tough times. There are ways, though, to not lose creativity. We would experience such an approach using The New York Times.

Routinely, we use use patterns of perception to organize our lives into patterns that we can easily recognize. Without these patterns, we would have difficulty processing information and making our way through life.

patterns of perception

Situations occur, though, when our patterns of perception become a problem. They prevent us from coming up with innovative solutions. How then do we break through? How do we come up with alternate solutions?

frog refers to the solution as lateral thinking, a term that Edward de Bono developed. Lateral thinking uses an indirect and creative approach to solve problems that a linear or logical approach fails at.

Examples of lateral thinking include:

+ Captain Sullenberger, the USAir Pilot, considered an innovative solution when he landed his plane on the Hudson river. Some might have considered the solution absurd. It worked.

+ In the Mann Gulch fire of 1949, a firefighter invented a technique called "escape fire."

Lateral thinking: breaks out of existing thinking; it changes patterns of perception.

+ Imagine taking the trailer for an intense movie such as The Shining and adding a different sound track [i.e, Peter Gabriel] to it. Imagine how different and unexpected the result is... [See His 'Secret' Movie Trailer Is No Secret Anymore]

Lateral Thinking
Lateral Thinking continued

Humor and creativity work in brain the same way: a punchline moves us out of a linear mode. In the telling of a joke, we are taken along the main track. Suddenly, we are shifted to the end of the sidetrack and immediately see the track we came from.

Creative Insights leads to innovative thinking
"Lateral" refers to moving sideways across patterns instead of moving along them as in normal thinking. Every valuable creative idea must always be logical in hindsight.

The world upside down
We were deliberately shown a map of the world upside down. This is provocation!

Provocation creates mental instability that forces the thinker to develop new ideas.

The provocative statement needs to lie outside our normal experience - otherwise it will not have any provocation value.

Provocation leads you outside your realm of experience

Four categories of Provocation
Effective provocation statements force you to go outside of your realm of experience. They are deliberate ways to force creative insight and step up to C [see photo above] and into lateral thinking.

There are four categories of provocation:

Exaggeration: Exaggerate normal properties
Escape: cancel, negate, drop, remove, deny what we have taken for granted
Reverse: Reverse the normal direction of action. Change it to move in the opposite direction.
Wishful Thinking - go to edges: Turn a fantasy wish into a provocation.

[An exaggerated statement such as "a police with 100 eyes" led to the creation of a neighborhood watch.]

Provocation Exercise

The Provocation Exercise

We set off on our own provocation exercise about The New York Times facing disappearing ad revenue. The room was broken into four groups. Each addressed a different facet of the problem. On sheets similar to the one pictured above, we chose a provocation and went about generating creative thoughts.

Capturing provocative innovation

My group looked at the value proposition of the New York Times with respect to consumer needs and behavior. Some of the ideas generated included:
- news tattooed on your body
- newspaper reads people
- customized newspaper
- fashion accessories to deliver news

We imagined no customers, leasing out writers, and buying shares of a writer.

What we discovered is that solutions aren't always obvious. But, with a change in framework, or a provocation, we are better able to discover and consider innovative solutions that add considerable value.

Check out my Links of Note: BRITE '09 Conference to get a feel for the rest of the event...

Have you come across interesting instances of provocation that generated innovation for you? Would you tell me about it?

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Press Release: Social Flooring Index From Simple Marketing Now Captures Industry's Social State

For Immediate Release: November 30, 2009


Wide Ranging Social Media Marketing Adoption Underscores Opportunities To Strengthen Customer Ties

Kinnelon, NJ – Simple Marketing Now LLC has issued an update to the newly established Social Flooring Index. It is available on Social Flooring Index and examines the flooring industry’s involvement with social media marketing tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Social media marketing tools – in this case, blogs, Twitter and Facebook – offer companies, including floor covering industry companies, an effective means for connecting with core customers,” says Christine B. Whittemore, chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now. “The Social Flooring Index monitors the progress of the industry in the use of these tools and highlights success stories as well as failures.

The Index, which has been issued in three separate parts, was issued in Beta version in July 2009. This latest update includes additional data points that better capture how the industry overall has started to experiment with the tools of social media marketing.

More specifically, the Social Flooring Twitter Index, the Social Flooring Facebook Index and the Social Flooring Blog Index now all include a measure for monitoring the frequency and quality of update [i.e., whether updates broadcast messages or welcome and acknowledge interaction] – critical elements for media that are considered ‘social.’

The Social Flooring Index highlights social media marketing success stories. These are of benefit not just to the flooring industry, but also to any industry or company getting started with social media. “The Index includes companies that are just starting out with social media, those that have dabbled and aren’t sure how to proceed, and those which fully embrace the interaction that these tools enable with customers,” says Whittemore.

Home Depot [@HomeDepot] and UK-based McKay Flooring [@holeinhiseye] are two active Twitter flooring examples. Lowe’s Home Improvement and Palmetto Floors represent examples of active Facebook Fan pages. The Carpet and Rug Institute Blog, Canadian Build Direct’s blog and Carlisle’s Wide Plank Flooring Blog are successful blog examples. In all three categories, best practice calls for engagement with readers, fans and followers, and frequent, consistent updates that offer relevance and value in a conversational tone.

The Social Flooring Index provides a direct measurement of flooring industry companies and how they use and integrate social media tools into their day to day business. It also clearly highlights who is, and who is not, making use of the new tools.

“I see opportunity for the flooring industry to make use of the tools of social media to strengthen relationships with their customers. Not just with consumers, but also with Business to Business customers,” adds Whittemore.

The Social Flooring Index will be updated quarterly and will continue to evolve. Included are fiber manufacturers, retailers, manufacturers, associations and publications – all affiliated with the floor covering industry.

For more information about the Social Flooring Index, visit For information about Simple Marketing Now, visit Or, simply contact Whittemore at cbwhittemore [at] .

# # #

About Simple Marketing Now LLC
Simple Marketing Now is a marketing communications consultancy that provides organizations with the right combination of traditional marketing and social media marketing to improve the customer experience and build brand. For more information, visit

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Battelle & The Conversation Economy

Fuel For Thought

"This Is The Conversation Economy... and marketing is everyone's job," says John Battelle.

John Battelle, Founder, CEO & Chairman of Federated Media and author of John Battelle's SearchBlog, shared thoughts about the conversation economy during his keynote presentation for Fuel For Thought, the Growth & Innovation Series, a thought-provoking, intimate half-day session about social media marketing which took place in Parsippany, NJ, on 11/5/09.

The era of packaged goods marketing has been eclipsed by conversation marketing [Read my post about Jonathan Salem Baskin and his 10 Ideas to Refocus Branding.]. As consumers, we distrust what we hear from corporate brands, preferring to form opinions based on the conversations taking place around us and online. In a conversation economy, every marketer is a publisher. Every publisher is a marketer. And every consumer is both marketer and publisher.

Conversation Economy Implications

Fascinating to consider the business implications of a conversation economy and how that affects communications with customers...

Marketers can no longer push messages. Brand marketers can still control their website and paid links. Everyone else is in charge for the rest of search results.

Which means that marketers must now pay attention to how customers and visitors behave online, how they increasingly gravitate towards search to find the information that they seek, and that they rarely start at your home page.

Battelle characterized search as a 'database of conversations.' One where customers use natural language [think long tail searches] to find what they seek and that creates a linked economic system - think social search.

How then is a brand marketer to market given the conversations?

According to Battelle, all media can be social -- especially given the desire on the part of marketers to share. Magazines and TV create engagement and ads make sense given the context a reader is in.

In the conversation economy, marketers require the skills of a publisher to succeed. They need to understand how to engage their audiences in conversation. It's a challenge because brands tend to be conservative and marketing tends to operate in a silo.

To succeed, marketing needs to be everyone's job vertically and horizontally throughout an organization. Marketing is the business and everyone plays a role!

If Web 1.0 was about marketing to constituents, Web 2.0 is about embracing the social media SEA and helping customers by filtering, aggregating and curating to create value and offer high quality marketing engagements.

Battelle's Conversation Marketing Guidelines:

1. Find conversations to join
2. Find leaders of conversation
3. Listen first, then join
4. Add value to conversations
5. When you're ready, dare to let the brand create conversation content!
6. Don't forget what truly matters: integrity, honesty, transparency, and interaction

I love this point: think in terms of making media annuities - small, consistent contributions over time.

Check out the examples John Battelle shared.

In Open Forum from American Express, you'll notice an ad box where the viewer can choose to engage with specific content from well respected small business bloggers.

Microsoft's ExecTweets offers an interesting destination [here is the Twitter Blog's post about ExecTweets].

Starbucks has been successful with My Starbucks Idea creating engagement and developing a community of passionate Starbucks customers.

Metrics haven't been fully consolidated for measuring effectiveness. However, marketers want to identify amplification of the message, equity in the brand and whether engagement takes place.

Sigma's Recap of John Battelle's Conversation Economy Keynote

Here is Sigma's recap of the John Battelle presentation: Fuel for Thought Recap: All Media Is Social. Now What? Many thanks to Sigma's Jenn Kim, from whom I learned about the event which also included breakout presentations from Visual Goodness and Federated Media. [I missed the Radian6 and Sigma sessions].


If you haven't already, would you consider subscribing to Simple Marketing Blog as well as becoming Facebook fans of Simple Marketing Now? Thank you!

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Do I Start With Social Media?

How Do I? social media marketing series

How Do I Start With Social Media?

This question comes up all the time. And, no wonder. There's plenty of hype and buzz out there about social media, social media tools and social media marketing. Everyone's bringing it up. Even newscasters refer you to Twitter to keep up with late breaking developments. It's confusing to say the least.

Where to start?

I like to start by putting social media marketing into perspective. You see, we sometime forget this, but markets are conversations - a statement from the 1999 book called The Cluetrain Manifesto. Through conversation, buyers and sellers exchange information; they have the opportunity to develop trust and build credibility. Conversations set the stage for loyal communities based on shared experiences and stories.

Conversations take place between people, not between brands or companies. Not too different from how business used to be conducted before the days of mass markets, as Jonathan Salem Baskin reminded us in 10 Ideas to Refocus Branding.

Conversations are intrinsically social.

The tools of social media - e.g, Blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, Amazon reviews, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube... - facilitate these intrinsically social conversations. These tools are easy to use, mostly free, and they bring back conversation, interaction over common interests, and the sharing of value through relevant content.

The tools aren't going away. They may morph, but the principles remain and affect us all. They enable us to strengthen connection, build trust and develop authenticity. They are certainly critical to establishing a digital presence.

Getting Started.

Getting started is about taking small, thoughtful steps, say 15 to 20 minutes per day. Thoughtful in that you want to step back and consider how on target your efforts were after each short session. That allows you to recalibrate and avoid getting sucked into the fire hose of information.

You need to start, though, and be consistent about your explorations.

Although Twitter tends to capture most people's fancy [I get more questions about Twitter during presentations, than about any other social media tool.], I strongly suggest that you start by exploring blogs.

Why blogs?

Blogs are user friendly.
Through blogs, you will uncover thought leadership as well as leads to other resources.
Blogs represent home base for other activities taking place on Twitter or Facebook, for example.
Blogs will help with making sense out of Twitter.

How to go about finding blogs worth exploring?

Start with a topic that interests you or relevant industry terms. Maybe it's "marketing to women" or "simple marketing". You may refine your terms as you discover more.

Google Blog Search
Google Alerts - for the terms you find most relevant [including brand and competitor names]
Ice Rocket

Be sure to pay attention to the resources listed in blog sidebars. They will be sources to other links and blogs worth exploring.

Once you find blogs of note [you might want to review How Do I Evaluate A Blog?], subscribe to them. Most blogs will offer you two options: RSS [i.e., Really Simple Syndication that you read through a feed reader] or email updates.

As you start to explore, you will discover communities around related blog topics, and ideas worth sharing with customers, peers and friends. And possibly even worth commenting on!

Are you ready to get started with social media? What do you find works best for you? And what other questions do you have?

Image credit: Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Brands Engage Customers In Conversation: MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer

Big Brands Engage Customers In Conversation at MProfs Digital Marketing Mixer 2009Given my interest in practical marketing, I was particularly interested in Becky Carroll's, Michael Brito's and Tom Diederich's presentation titled How Big Brands Engage in Real Time Conversations With Consumers during the 2009 MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer.

Big Brand Participants

Each participant brought a big brand perspective to the discussion:

+ Michael Brito discussed Intel and the Ajah Bhatt phenomenon
+ Becky Carroll used the example of Hansen Soda
+ Tom Diederich contrasted Symantec and Cadence where he built communities using two different approaches.

I found it fascinating.

Consumers Expect Social Media Presence

Michael started the session off by putting into context why a company would want to engage in conversation with consumers: because consumers now expect a social media presence.

From the 9/25/08 Cone Survey, "Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media." More specifically, 60% of Americans use social media. Of those:

+ 59% interact with companies via the social media
+ 93% believe a company should have a presence in social media
+ 85% believe a company should interact via social media

Add to that what Altimeter's Charlene Li discovered in her recent study: deep brand engagement correlates with financial performance.

Engaging and connecting with customers is critical stuff.

Intel's Engagement Experience

Intel discovered as much when it discovered [by listening on the social web] a need for Ajay Bhatt t-shirts -- as a result of Ajay Bhatt, who invented the USB, being an Intel Star on a TV ad. Intel responded by filling that need and created a memorable brand experience that has led to an Ajay Bhatt Facebook Fan page, 1,500+ fans on Twitter, user generated content and new level of loyalty and customer retention -- all by engaging with customers via social media.

Read through the Facebook Fan page content. It's really interesting.

Hansen Sodas Discovers Value of Ongoing Engagement

Becky Carroll, using the example of Hansen Sodas, addressed the evolution from social media campaign to ongoing relationship. Her first involvement with Hansen, a West Coast soda brand with a loyal following, involved a campaign to draw San Diego fans in with a photo contest. The problem was that, when the campaign ended, the conversation stopped.

You cannot let the interaction go silent if you choose to engage customers with social media. Social media builds trust and community; it increases engagement and loyalty and, if you go silent, you break the trust.

Based on those learnings, Hansen took a different approach to connecting with San Francisco. In addition to the photo contest, it engaged fans via Twitter [@hansensnatural] and Facebook as well as offline events. Tweets drew fans to the campaign Facebook page and then to the company fan page.

According to Becky, Hansen quickly saw an improvement in traffic and relationship building as a result of social media. Facebook was particularly effective to generating referrals and votes for the photo contests. Overall for San Francicso, Hansen saw an ROI of approximately 12 cents/reach.

Cadence Engages Customer Community on Home Page

Tom Diederich contrasted two experiences for us. That of starting from scratch with building the Symantec Technology Network community and having community be front and center for Cadence with it featured on the home page.

He asked customers what they wanted to read. He thought of the blog and forum as similar to a newspaper with distinct sections. He recruited internal experts, created weekly editorial meetings to keep blog posts on track, and invited super-users to become part of a special VIP program.

In terms of best practices:
+ Be a business owner who oversees budgets and sets direction.
+ Be a community manager who conducts planning and day-t0-day decion-making
+ A moderator who sets tone, enforces rules and helps users
+ Have a set of comprehensive guidelines.
+ Have well-defined procedures for when violations or other issues arise.
+ Offer high visibility/rank to potential users [think credibility points for super users]
+ Create a proper structure and atmosphere to engage users
+ Nurture a well-managed group of super-users
+ Make sure you have strong measurement processes focused on business value

Other Observations

Contests are not effective for sustaining relationships.
Along with having social media guidelines, also conduct digital training.
Be sure to include and integrate social media into your other marketing.
Definitely do research to understand how people search for you.

What are you reactions? And, what would you add?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Whittemore On Bizzuka's User Friendly Thinking With Munsell & Chaney

Whittemore on User Friendly ThinkingI had a blast last Friday, November 6, 2009 on User Friendly Thinking BlogTalkRadio with Bizzuka CEO John Munsell and my friend Paul Chaney. The topic was 'flooring' the consumer!

Paul and John promoted the BlogTalkRadio program as follows:

On the Friday, November 6, episode of User Friendly Thinking radio, our guest is C. B. Whittemore, marketing consultant with Simple Marketing Now LLC. We're going to be discussing flooring the consumer. Of course, there is more to the term "flooring" than meets the eye. C.B. was formerly Director, In-Store Innovation for Solutia's Wear-Dated carpet fiber. We will be talking about ways to improve the customer retail experience and about businesses, both digital and brick/mortar, who are passionate about meeting the needs of their consumers and who successfully bridge traditional marketing with social marketing. C. B. is also the editor of Flooring the Consumer, a blog about improving customer experience. Join us Friday, November 6, at noon central for another edition of User Friendly Thinking radio.

After we got through the basics [i.e., my background and Simple Marketing Now] and discussed whether shag carpet was coming back, John asked me to discuss in more detail 'flooring' the consumer and how that notion led to starting Flooring The Consumer, my blog about the retail experience and marketing to women.

From there, we explored my philosophy of 'simple marketing,' bridging new and traditional forms of marketing, how social media aids in improving the customer experience and how offline customer service relates to the online equivalent.

We touched on websites and how to ensure that they look 'alive' - BTW, do check out Bizzuka's recently launched social site for their client Dr. Dale Archer, which we talked about - and the Bathroom Blogfest [lucky Paul and John visited both Flooring The Consumer and Simple Marketing Blog right smack in the middle of all of the Bathroom Blogfest excitement! Can you imagine?]. Finally, we exchanged perspectives on where advertising and marketing are headed.

Here's a link to the full one hour interview: Flooring The Consumer with C.B. Whittemore.

And, here's the lineup for the next few interviews on User Friendly Thinking on BlogTalkRadio:

11/13/09: Melissa Ward, will discuss using Facebook for business @ 1pm EST

11/20/09: Dan Kehrer -

12/4/09: Shannon Lane - travel blogger/writer @cajun_mama on Twitter

12/11/09: Gary Vaynerchuk

I also recommend that you check out past episodes of User Friendly Thinking, all of which include amazing insights from the most User Friendly Thinkers around.

Thank you, John and Paul, for a wonderful and lively opportunity to discuss a subject that I feel so passionately about! And, John, I look forward to meeting you in person soon so we can continue the conversation.

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