Monthly Archives November 2010

ShopSocial 2010

It’s that time of year. Time to get out there and start shop, shop, shopping for those holiday gifts. Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. And some of us never stop. Here at Flightpath, we’ve become a little enamored with the latter, those distinctly devoted shoppers gifted with the skills of finding a good deal anywhere. We’re especially curious about their online shopping prowess and their need (duty?) to share deals, purchases, and other “shopinions” out in the digital open.
The Shoppers
These types of individuals, dubbed social shoppers, make the shopping world go round. They’re digital natives that are part of generation share, and they never shop alone. So this holiday season, we’ve decided to channel our research efforts into learning all about these shoppers—from their point of view. We gathered a handful of social shoppers and put them under our lens to hear what they had to say about their digital-social shopping habits, behaviors, and motivations. We’ve got so much to learn.
The Channel
Visit our ShopSocial 2010 channel on YouTube to check out the one-on-one interviews with our shoppers. See them dish the dirt on the favorite shopping campaigns, mechanisms for sharing, and even how great it feels to get a good deal. Bookmark the channel and stay tuned for more videos from additional interviews and other user-generated submissions. Comment on, like, share, and embed your favorites!

The Contest
Love social shopping, too? Chances are you’re not shy, then, so how about sharing that love with us? Share your own tell-all social shopping video describing how you navigate the social web to find, share, shout out, and support—all in the name of shopping. The contest runs from December 1 – 31, 2010, and you can share your YouTube link at our microsite, We’ll add your videos to the ShopSocial 2010 playlist, and four lucky shoppers, whose videos receive the most views by midnight December 31, 2010 will win a gift card.

My First WOMMA Summit: Not Everything that Happens in Vegas Should Stay There

Last week, I attended my first Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit (WOMMA).  It was a great experience full of amazing insights that truly gathered some of the best and brightest in the business…and it was in Las Vegas.

It’s ironic when you think that a word-of-mouth marketing conference would take place in a city that has long used secrecy as a campaign slogan. “What happens in Vegas…”you know the rest.  And I’m sure that some should probably live by that rule.  But key concepts and ideas discussed at this year’s WOMMA should definitely not stay secret. So here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Measurement is still a hard thing to quantify. Ask anyone who works in social media what one of their largest challenges is, and inevitably, you will have them list measurement, ROI, or proving the value of their efforts. This is a problem that has not disappeared, but one that, according to many in the field, we are getting closer to figuring out. Josh Bernoff of Forrester, and author of the new book Empowered, addressed this issue in his keynote speech by introducing the “ROI of Word of Mouth Pyramid.”  Bernoff identifies three levels to this pyramid:
  1. First, is the measurement of activity or items, such as interactions, fans, twitter followers, etc.
  2. Second, is comparisons, slightly more advanced than straight reporting, as this involves taking those numbers and comparing them to other efforts.
  3. Third, is the pinnacle, and the point where all efforts converge is the final measurement of value. This includes emphasis on comparing one activity to the other and a deeper look at what value these interactions have to the overall marketing objectives.

In addition to Bernoff’s keynote, a number of sessions featuring some high profile brands (ESPN, Coca Cola, etc.) also addressed the topic of ROI and measurement.

  • One-on-one conversations are hard to scale. One of the last panel discussions, moderated by Jeremiah Owyang, a leading researcher and analyst with The Altimeter Group, discussed the importance of brand ambassador and advocate programs. Owyang explained that it is impossible for any company to scale individual conversations with customers, but programs that are designed to utilize brand advocates and ambassadors can prove to be very valuable.
  • Engage in dialogue with your fans. This last piece of advice seems like a no-brainer but was still a very popular discussion.  Complete panels were devoted to delivering the best customer service via social media and the resulting wins for the brand.  A panel from Ben and Jerry mentioned they saw a huge uptick when, instead of telling their followers where they were going to be, they asked them where they wanted them to go.

So what is the number one thing that I took away from the summit?  I think it’s this: As much as technology can change and move from platform to platform, there are still going to be some golden rules to live by in social and word-of-mouth platforms.  Keep in mind the three items listed above, and make sure that everything you do provides some sort of value to your community.  Do this and you will have a huge leg up on your competition.

The New Non-Geek Computer Speak

Recently over happy hour drinks, I sat listening to a friend of mine discuss her sudden weight loss. This was by no means extraordinary, but what was interesting was exactly how she chose to talk about it. Attributing her new slimness to a recent job change, she stated, “sitting and staring at the computer used to be my default setting, and now, I’m constantly on the move.” The phrase “default setting” jumped out at me, and as I began to break it down, I realized the complex semantic underpinnings at work. The opposite of personification or anthropomorphism, my friend crossed into new terrain, likening human behavior and consciousness to that of conventionally inanimate, yet not entirely lifeless, technologies. And she was totally comfortable, if not eager, to make this comparison.

Consider a few more examples. Often after a hard week at work, I tell my family and friends that I’m taking the weekend to “unplug and reboot.” Sometimes, during an especially dry film or conference, I check out from the present moment and go into “sleep mode.” Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three instances this week of someone telling me they’d like to discuss something “offline.” And I’m sure that you can think of dozens of similar tech-come-human phrases appropriated in your daily conversations, too.

I think these examples signal a very important shift, if not transcendence, in mainstream consciousness. Gone is the era of hysteric technophobia. In its stead, a new age of cuddly techno love and acceptance is dawning. And what’s particularly interesting is our willingness not just to accept technology, particularly computers, but to empathize with them. At some point, we began to see a likeness in our own consciousness, a familiarity of being. That’s a radical change.

Arguably, computers and other technologies are engineered to mimic human brain processes, or at least what scientists think they understand about human brain processes. Therefore, one could purport that it’s only natural people adopt those words and phrases traditionally set aside for computers, sensing a likeness in their own brain function. It’s a solid counterpoint, but narrow-minded in the sense that it doesn’t honor the emotional pains taken to achieve that sense of familiarity.

Feeling at ease with technology didn’t happen overnight. It took decades for humans to develop benevolent feelings toward computers and hours of one-on-one time to seal the deal. Certainly not everyone is hip to this trend, but the mainstream has spoken with a voice that doesn’t get ignored. The new non-geek computer speak comes loaded with technological innuendos and reveals our true sentiments, one flippant happy hour conversation at a time. We like computers. They’re like us. And together, we’re gonna share this state of being.

This new dawn we’re witnessing really excites me. I believe it means that people have opened up that warm, lighthearted, and fuzzy side of themselves that was traditionally locked away from technology. It’s a new dimension in the collective consciousness, full of empathy and richly emotional, that’s begging for creative word play and fun.

Lowe’s Black Friday Facebook Sneak Peak Party Takeaways

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year.  People wake up early from their food comas and rush to the big retail stores in the hope of scoring a great deal. But why wait until November 26th for special deals? Lowe’s Home Improvement realized this and leveraged Facebook to run a promotion called “Lowe’s Black Friday Sneak Peak Party.”
Lowe’s idea was to get Facebook fans to RSVP for the event a week before and get the buzz going.  Then, starting November 5th at midnight, customers waited for Lowe’s to post links to 90% off coupons on various products on their website.  There were thousands of coupons available for the duration of the event, so if you acted fast, you were bound to get a deal.

Being the avid shopper that I am, I RSVPed for the event but actually forgot about checking in at midnight to see what offers were up for grabs.  Turned out to be a good thing, because later that day, I found a stream of negative comments on Lowe’s Facebook wall.  Apparently, at midnight on Friday, 11/5, Lowe’s Black Friday Sneak Party kicked off according to plan.  Then, the first deal for 90% off a KitchenAid stand mixer went up, causing hundreds of shoppers to rush to  That first wave of shoppers caused the site to go down.  And not only that, but Lowe’s did not post the coupon code promptly after announcing the deal, leaving users impatiently waiting and confused.  Another big slip-up was Lowe’s not sticking to their word by posting deals when they said they would, leading to more than 1,000 angry comments on their Facebook wall.

How the promotion failed

A great campaign can easily go sour if not executed properly.  Here are a few hiccups that made anticipated fun turn into a harried ordeal.

  • went down when people were in the middle of the checkout process
  • Confusion on how to get the deal, e.g., Is that automatically added to the cart? Will Lowe’s post the coupon code? When will the code be posted?
  • Facebook and Twitter messages were not in sync
  • Facebook messages were not timed right:
    • Lowe’s said they would post a code within 20 minutes; it took close to an hour
    • Over 1600 comments were posted by frustrated fans who sat at their PCs constantly refreshing the Facebook page to see if the code had been posted

How to do it right

From my past experiences as a shopper, and working on many client websites, here are some tips to take into account when launching a promotion:

  • Be prepared: Account for a surge of traffic which will tax the webserver
  • Be honest: Don’t post misleading information
  • Be timely: Sync your Facebook posts and tweets; you don’t want to confuse your customers
  • Stay in touch: If you are having issues, let customers know right away
  • Set expectations: Disclose the time the promotion will be announced and stick to it
  • Control backlash: Find a way to manage the anger from people that felt entitled to win and didn’t, or they’ll overshadow the happy winners

Social media platforms are a viral medium.  People spread the word on good experiences and bad ones, too.  So even if there is a bad experience, try to turn it around.  Acknowledge you slipped and make it up to the customer.

From this Lowe’s promotion, I did not get the 90% off coupon that I originally wanted, but I received a consolation prize of 20% off a specific product.  And I received $10 off my purchase.  Was $10 worth my time?  Maybe not.  Will I participate in another Lowe’s promotion?  Probably, but that’s up in the air, too.

Can Social Media Go the Distance this Giving Season?

Thanksgiving typically marks the official start of the charitable giving season.  Bright, poignant, and inspiring campaigns hit the masses, and we all get plugged in to helping meet the needs of others.  But these are not typical times, with the national unemployment rate around 9 percent and other, devastatingly harsh factors like under-employment and geographic pain are taken into account.  So in this state of economic turmoil, what do this year’s giving season campaigns have in store?

The New York Road Runners Club (NYRR) kick-started the season Sunday at the NYC marathon.  They really went the distance, raising over $30 million through this year’s event.  They had hoped to raise $1 Million a Mile, or $26.2 million, through corporate partners and, of course, many of the event’s nearly 45,000 runners.  The NYRR crew kept a running (pun intended) count of individual “fundraising runners” along with the total amount raised by the group.  As I sat watching and cheering the NYC Marathoners Sunday (a shout out to Flightpath founder, president, and serial marathoner, Jon Fox), it was hard not to think the event was a complete citywide take-over—in the best, most charitable way possible. The old idiom, charity starts at home, never rang truer true to me, as a native New Yorker, seeing how much fundraising was linked to this enormous effort.

Over the next couple of months, the web and social media will be working as hard as Jon and his fellow distance runners for all the people in serious need this year.  It’s time for marketers to step up with their best and brightest—and that poses some unique challenges in the digital space.

Internet fundraising has generated strong interest in the nonprofit world over the last decade, but it still lags behind direct mail, events, and other more traditional ways of soliciting donations.  Of the $263 billion that Americans give to charity each year, 5.7 percent is given online, according to Blackbaud Inc.’s (NASDAQ:BLKB) index of online giving.  Of that, less than 1 percent comes from social media, estimated Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud.

Facing the pre-launch of this season’s campaigns means facing the reality that social media has not been the fundraising salvation getting people through this tough economy.  It has been more effective at “friend-raising,” as in gaining supporters and engaging them in dialogue about a cause, than actual fundraising.  Social media enthusiasts say the medium is in its relative infancy with HUGE potential to become a much more important means of soliciting charitable relief.  So with one of the hardest-hitting campaign essentials taking a back seat, it’s time to recalibrate using a little more insight from Blackbaud:

  • 46 % of online giving takes place in the last three months of the year
  • 30 % of online giving occurs in December alone
  • 50 % of donors will not change their habits this giving season
  • 36 % of American donors will be giving less due to financial limitations

Social media’s definitely not out for this year’s campaigns—NYRR and 45,000 runners proved that Sunday.  But this year is challenging us to rethink how we want to use it.  It won’t be enough to rely on what’s comfortable.  Charitable campaigns that incorporate social media will have to greatly accommodate the giver and leverage the entire medium in a new and unexpected way.  This is bound to get interesting.  So if you feel the urge to “give it up” this year on the social web, know that you’re onto something really big.

Being a Trust Agent Means Taking Action

As part of our monthly book club here at Flightpath, we recently read the book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  The book lays out principles that an individual can follow to become a so-called “trust agent,” and then illustrates how to apply those learnings to interactions in new media and emerging technology.  The concept of the book is important, but since it is not the main focus of this post, I will quickly outline the six key principles or tactics:

  • Make Your Own Game
  • One of Us
  • The Archimedes Effect
  • Agent Zero
  • The Human Artist
  • Building an Army

If you want to dive further into the book, I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself.  It is well written, easy to understand, and a quick read.

There is more to this book, however, than just the basic concept.  The lesson or insight that really hit home for me was how every chapter, and the book as a whole, was designed to be an actionable asset, as opposed to basic theory.  This becomes evident in how the book is completed.  The book does not end with a summary, overview, or re-hashing of everything the authors wrote.  Instead, it ends with action items and a plan with the foundation for actual execution.

This to me was the greatest asset the book offers.  I believe the author wrote the book from this specific frame of reference, and this is one of the reasons why it is so easy to relate to on many levels.  If they had a goal for what this book should accomplish, I believe it was exactly that, for the reader to internalize the content in their own way and then apply it and utilize it right away.  When the authors first address the concept of currency and how it relates to digital content, they begin by mentioning a joke.  I won’t repeat the joke here, but the point was that the joke becomes an asset in itself, something that an individual can use for their own benefit.  This to me is how this book becomes a valuable asset that should be applied in each individual’s own way in their everyday lives.  Just like the joke, however, the way one applies it can be completely different.  One person could use the joke as an icebreaker for a one-on-one conversation, another person could use the same joke as an introduction to a room full of people, and yet another could use it to explain his point of view in a blog post (wonder which one I am?).

The point and lesson is that we should approach everything in this way.  You have all heard the quote “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  This is perfectly applicable here and in everything you do.  If you don’t have a plan to put those intentions to use, then they are just that—dead intentions.  Instead, try to start looking at the world from an actionable perspective.  Ask yourself the questions, “How can I apply this to my situation, my business, my life?”  It is only with this deliberate practice that anything will ever get accomplished.  So what is your plan?  Don’t simply tell me, but as a famous shoe brand says, “Just Do It!”

Five Tips to Make a Facebook Wall Post Communicate

Almost anyone’s Facebook wall is a torrent of posts and comments flowing forth at a pace that would make the fastest stream-of-consciousness poet dizzy. And it’s not merely that it’s a stream-of-consciousness medium, but rather, that it’s a stream-of-many-consciousnesses medium. So how does your brand keep up? How do you break into that fluidity and actually communicate?

It’s easier than you might think, but you may have to change or break free from your normal (comfortable) communication style. Being successful with Facebook wall posts requires that you learn some new rules and abandon that me-brand, you-consumer mold. Here’s a few tips to help you get started:

1. Start a conversation. The biggest reason anyone comes to Facebook is for social interaction, so give your fans what they want. Introduce yourself and open up the lines of communication. Start asking questions your fans want to answer. Try asking lifestyle questions, which are much more effective for rallying fans around a brand, instead of direct product or service questions. And get ready to take up the art of active listening.

2. Use their lingo. This requires some study, but the payoff in comments and conversations is well worth it. Scout your own page and learn how fans are talking to each other. This is about both the style of communication as well as the exact vocabulary used. Visit similar fan pages and take notes from pages with lively and active feeds. Just like in real life, it’s much easier to talk to someone who’s on your level.

3. Keep it short. When you have less than 10 seconds to reach your fans, less is undoubtedly more. Opt for short sentences and get right to the point. Don’t worry about being high-brow or wordy. One-sentence posts are actually preferred. Just looking at a short paragraph of text tells readers they have to invest time in reading and responding. That’s a big turn-off to busy social butterflies. It’s better to craft hard-hitting one-liners, so people know right way if they’re interested.

4. Give fans the spotlight. Even though Facebook is social, it’s undeniably a “me” medium, and you’ve got to let your fans have their time under the big lights. Almost everything you post needs to be about them, or they’re just going to find another page that meets their personal-social needs. Keep people on your page by constantly asking for their feedback and contributions. Transform them into resident heroes, sages, entertainers, and comedians, and you’ll build a real community.

5. Broadcast only when necessary. Your business or brand undoubtedly has some news or information that’s important to share with fans. Shout out about those happenings, but limit these posts to the types of announcements which are truly relevant and interesting. A constant broadcast of your brand and its accomplishments, services, features, or benefits runs the risk of boring and alienating fans.