I’m on the WOMMA Board!

I’m proud to announce I’ve been elected to the 2014 WOMMA Board of Directors. I’m looking forward to learning shoulder to shoulder from such great leaders as Virginia Miracle, Brad Fay, Mark Bisard, Rick Murray, Rod Brooks, Peter Storck… the list goes on.

In short, it’s an honor to serve a great organization like WOMMA and I thank those of you who helped me get nominated and elected!

The next frontier part II

Innovation adoption curve

Innovation adoption curve source: Wikipedia

As part of the “next frontier” of embracing the early majority on social media, there are some big questions leaders have to grapple with:

  • How do I encourage people across the business to include social solutions in their strategies?
  • How do I simultaneously cede control to the increasing numbers of people who want to engage in social channels and still guide the strategy?
  • How do I convince even the late majority and laggards that social solutions can improve the outcomes they’re seeking? More specifically, how do I do it without my ego getting in the way?
  • How do I balance time spent between executing strategies and educating?

I don’t know how I’m going to answer these questions yet, but one day soon I hopefully will. If you have any answers borne of experience, please comment.

The next frontier – part I

A new frontier in social marketingI’m biased and I admit it. In the past year or two, something wonderful (or terrible, depending on your point of view) has happened: lots of people are jumping on the “social” bandwagon. As someone who’s been in the trenches pioneering the work to shift a big company to approaching all aspects of our work in a way that incorporates help from our customers, I respect other pioneers more than newcomers. I just do. I suspect the other “first movers” from big companies feel the same way, although no one actually comes right out and says so.

Here’s why: people who were on the boat from the beginning have a shared experience. Without saying so, I know we’ve all faced the same skepticism, rolling eyes, and outright sneers from co-workers we respect and admire. We’ve all experienced the joy that comes with seeing new people understand and adopt new practices that embrace customers. We understand that the wins you have as an innovator may not be the ones you expected, but you celebrate them nonetheless.

A few personal stories on why relationships between pioneers matter so deeply:

When I first met Seth Greenberg four years ago, I suspect we both felt like two guppies in a pond full of goldfish. Both recent hires from internet backgrounds, we found ourselves surrounded by some of the smartest people we’d ever met. And they all thought in a really different way than we did – the consumer packaged goods way. (for those unfamiliar with that approach it’s traditional, disciplined, and steeped in decades of research and data) Our first meeting was at our then VP of Marketing’s staff meeting – he had asked me to present our work with the Inner Circle.  As I walked through the site, explaining how we partnered with customers to create our product, most of the room listened with varying degrees of interest. But not Seth. He lit up immediately, offering ideas of what we could do on the site to make it even more interactive. “Finally!” I remember thinking, “finally, someone I can talk to about this stuff.”

Around this same time two product managers whose opinions I still deeply respect to this day were telling me to, in effect, get a real job because nothing was ever going to come of this social stuff. But not Seth. And when it was time to leave product management for my next career move, our shared experience helped pave the way to a brand new opportunity working for Seth. (Which was transforming for both of us, I think)

Just as surely I knew “social” was the direction to go four years ago, I know the “early majority” jumping on board now is a necessary thing – the next frontier. How can we scale our efforts without their help? We can’t. And like Charlene Li states in her new book Open Leadership I need to find a way to enable even more adoption and still be a leader.

Next up: embracing the challenge of the unknown.

I got a new job!

As of July 5th I’ll be moving into a new role for me: Sr. Manager of Social Media and Corporate Communications. It’s similar to what I’ve been doing, but on the communications side of the house with more emphasis on direct customer engagement. (Incidentally, that’s the part I love) I’ll also get to work directly for my long-time mentor and with a great team of strong, smart women.

Making this move is bittersweet; I’m getting a great opportunity but I’m leaving behind a team I love and a boss I adore in Seth Greenberg. I’ll still be working in very close collaboration with the team (and my replacement) but it hurts a little to move forward from a group of folks that brings their “A” game to every challenge and yet still supports one another.

Here’s to new challenges and opportunities and rising to meet them!

Kids, there *are* bad ideas

I am tired, ever-so-tired of hearing people say “there is no such thing as a bad idea.” Believe me, there are plenty of bad ideas out there. Plenty. I have no idea how we got to this “I’m okay, you’re okay” place regarding the equal goodness of all ideas but I’m guessing the answer has something to do with New Math. (Thank you, 7o’s)

What’s more interesting to me is what principles can I adhere to ensure the ideas that come out of my mouth don’t suck. Here’s what I’ve got so far… I’d be interested to know what I’m missing here:

  1. Have a strategy. Your strategy should ladder up to the businesses’ strategy. If you do nothing else but refer back to this principle, it would be almost enough.
  2. Stay up on what’s current. If you have a grasp on what’s actually innovative in the here and now,  it’s hard to want to do things that are older just because three years later you finally figured out what you should have done three years ago.
  3. It’s not about you. If social is the “how” you’re using to get business results, it comes with its own set of rules. One of the most important rules is that you are not solving for the application you wish people would like if they all worked at your company, you’re solving for what they actually like. Based on actual behavior you can see and measure in the real world, not what you want it to be.
  4. Know how to build most things yourself. This is my personal opinion based on experience: if you can build even simple applications you will know more intimately how the internet works and what is most important. And you more than likely won’t make an ass of yourself when the time comes to work with real engineers.

What did I miss?

SPICY leaders

In her first blog post written for Ant’s Eye View, Kira Wampler (formerly of Intuit – I miss her already) writes about the qualities that make a great leader in the social space.

This was my favorite part of the post, the quality of being interested:

Interested: Are you naturally curious about the world around you, your customers’ lives and your products or services? Do you take a systematic approach for learning new “cultures” and new projects and, most importantly, then apply that learning to constantly improve on your teams and your work. And, my deep belief is that naturally interested people are naturally humble. We’re all learning our way here, and being humble goes a long way when operating in new cultures and partnering with internal teams. Speaking of…do you do more to recognize others than to gain recognition for yourself?

So well said, if for no other reason than the people most interested in life are the most interesting. Plus it’s hard to lead the way if you’re not interested in knowing where the path is leading or that there’s even a path in the first place.

Nice job Kira! Will you come back now?

TurboTax social media in Forbes

TurboTax social media in ForbesOur work in social media this year got featured in Forbes magazine; I take that as quite a compliment.

Although at first blush people may wonder about the connection between taxes and social media, I would say they aren’t quite looking at it right. The connection is between people and their friends and family. One of the things people do naturally – especially at this time of year – is talk with their friends about taxes. (Choosing a method to get them done, doing their taxes, getting help with their taxes, being done with their taxes, etc) Our social media efforts are based on amplifying those conversations and helping where needed. Until a few years ago, we called our work in this space “word of mouth marketing.” (I still do)

It’s not all that complicated in concept, but making it happen can be. This blog is about the hard-learned lessons in how I’ve learned (and am still learning) to make it happen.

A Golden Time

Team lunch

TurboTax Online Advertising Team Lunch

It’s one of those rare times in my work life: I’m on a “dream team,” a group of folks who are all world-class at what they do – no weak links. Every week when we report out on our week’s learnings for our channels, I marvel at just how much each one knows and brings to the team.  On top of that, we are kind to one another, pretty much all the time. When someone needs help, another steps up to assist, usually without asking. We laugh together – a lot. Even though it seems like that work environment should be standard, in my experience it isn’t. Especially when you work around smart people who constantly want to prove their own worth. Without question the credit for all this goes to our leader Seth Greenberg, who makes the culture possible.

I’ve had a chance to be on teams like this a few times before, and sadly it never lasts long. People get promoted into new jobs, they get married and move, and so on. Things just change. As Robert Frost said,

“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

Today our team goes on a much-needed team-building offsite day. When we arrive I’ll look around and be thankful for this golden time and these wonderful people I get to work with.

Psyching out

You know what my big soap box of 2010 appears to be? There is nothing new in the world of the psychology of learning. Just a few days ago I wrote a post about it. Today Ellen Reynolds from Dachis group wrote a post describing Kate Niederhoffer’s presentation about the psychology of teaching people new behaviors. The takeaway: People adopt a new way of doing things (like participating in social media) over time more easily when they are rewarded rather than punished.

If you’ve ever learned about animal training, you already know that’s true: the most effective way to create a new behavior long-term is to ignore undesired behaviors and react immediately and visibly to desired behaviors. From an operant conditioning standpoint, that’s positive reinforcement. Once you establish the new behavior and you want to see it happen more often, you change how often you reward the behavior. So once you’ve got people participating, your start varying the rate at which you reward them. In other words, surprise them with rewards if you want to encourage long-term change. Positive reinforcement changes behaviors and keeps people (and animals) motivated.

And that’s why Kate is so impressive (and rare): science has its place in business. It just takes someone both practical and “on their toes” like her to see it and call it out.