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?

We’re Famous! Social Media Metrics

Jim Sterne Social Media Metrics

Social Media Metrics

A few months ago, Jim Sterne interviewed a handful of folks at TurboTax, including myself, for his new book. Today the book arrived: Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. We’re in there! Page 185. I know it’s probably childish, but I still get really excited every time I see my/our name in print. (Thanks Jim, for the thrill!)

In the TurboTax case study, Jim describes last year’s Super Status campaign and how we measured its effectiveness. I’m personally delighted he mentions Sue West from our research team in the book; her team really did some innovative research that allowed us to quantify our results.

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.

5 things that matter in a social lead

There’s a lot of chatter among folks in social media about where in an organization the “control center” for social should live. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the answer each person gives to that question typically reflects where they live in the organization. Here’s the thing: if you believe that social is about partnering with customers to solve business problems, is there some area of the business where that won’t apply? (I’m guessing the answer is mostly no, Legal aside) So in the end, since social should be an end-to-end “how” that can solve many “whats,” does it matter where it lives in the organization? In my mind, the answer is no.

In my experience, here’s what does matter for the social strategy lead:

  1. Understanding the medium and how it applies to your business – does the person understand the importance of listening and understanding what your customer base really thinks and wants? Do they already know how your customers talk about you and want to be talked to? Do they already have experience “doing” social?
  2. Strategic thinking – can the person match up strategic assets and emerging technologies? As a former boss of mine used to say, you need to be able to “skate where the puck is going.”
  3. Communication skills – chances are, this person is going to be up against some pretty tall odds in your organization as they try and change the corporate culture to be more open. Can they present to large groups effectively? Can they establish relationships with people in the organization who will be future partners in social solutions they create together?
  4. Advocacy – can the person advocate for customers, even at the thought of short-term career costs? Can they balance what the customer needs are and the business needs are when they need to? Can they identify when to advocate and when to back off?
  5. Leadership – Does the leader in this area of the organization think social is a priority worth fighting for? If they don’t, it’s not the right place for it, regardless of how great the person leading social may be.

Whole Foods, you have my sympathies


Today Whole Foods (and a whole bunch of customers) got hosed by the bad guys on Facebook, who used the Whole Foods brand as a front to phish for personal information from unsuspecting customers. I guess it goes to show you, there are a-holes where-ever you go. Some of them are on social media.

I’d be lying if I said didn’t have a flash of “thank God it wasn’t us.” Because no matter what, if you’re working at Whole Foods in social media this would be a sucky time. Whoever those people are, they have my sympathies.

Seeing what can happen should act as a “teachable moment” for brands: let’s learn from this situation and establish our plans early for how to respond if it does.

BlogWell Comes to San Diego

The good folks at Gaspedal took and posted video of my presentation at the BlogWell conference in San Diego recently. Fun day that day – it was hosted at the Navy Training area in Coronado. (You know, the one you saw in Top Gun) Being there was super cool – speaking made being there fun and an honor. Thanks, Andy and Kurt.

TurboTax: TurboTax and Social Media, presented by Christine Morrison from GasPedal on Vimeo.

TurboTax on the Social Media Examiner

Recently TurboTax’s social efforts were featured on the Social Media Examiner. The interviewer, Michael Stelzner, knew quite a bit about what we’re doing. As a result, he asked questions I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before. It turned into what I think was a pretty good interview – nice job, Michael.

TurboTax from Michael A. Stelzner on Vimeo.

The Myth of Executive Buy-In

I hear a lot about the importance of selling your social programs to your businesses’ leadership team. Which makes sense. And no doubt you have to do it, to some degree. It’s just not a black-and-white issue.

I recently stumbled across my original deck (5 years old) for selling our then-general manager on the notion of starting the first-ever blog at the Consumer Group.  Asocial media executive buy-infter I got over the initial “Wow, I must have been smart 5 years ago, this is pretty good stuff!” moment of celebration it brought the whole meeting back to me, complete with all the anxiety and anticipation leading up to it.

Here’s the thing I didn’t know then (and it’s better I didn’t): even though our general manager bought off on the idea and we started the blog, I would have many challenges to come with other leaders.

Social believers, here’s the truth no one tells you: you will probably never get buy in from all those executives. Like everything worthwhile in life, it’s a journey.  Partner up with the leaders who are willing to try new things and prove your case as you go to the rest.

P.S. My “from – to” slide in that initial deck has all come true – it’s been quite a journey, but worth the ride.

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.